Will Occupancy Limits Aimed at 'Stealth Dorms' Hurt Austin Affordability?

Jan 29, 2014

A fight pitting affordable housing against neighborhood quality is headed to the Austin City Council.

Austin’s Planning Commission is recommending a reduction in the number of unrelated adults allowed to live together in single-family homes: the maximum would fall from six down to four.

Last night’s action was in response to complaints that neighborhoods were suffering from what opponents call “stealth dorms.”

“I don’t think stealth dorms are the correct way to look at densifying the city – yes we do need to look at that,” said Planning Commissioner Danette Chimenti. “But these illegal stealth dorms – where you cram tons of people into a house and it’s not safe – that’s not the way to do it. … We wanna stop the bleeding, and there is bleeding going on in our single family neighborhoods and we do need to stop it.”

Those against the reduction point out that Austin is already suffering from an affordable housing crunch. It’s a reasonable concern, says Jerry Rusthoven of the city’s Planning and Development Review Department. He noted last night that “the neighborhood housing staff does feel it has a negative impact on affordability overall.”

The proposal now heads to the City Council for potential final approval, scheduled Feb. 13. Watch last night’s Planning Commission meeting online.