Amid rising affordability issues, Austin City Council aims to slash remodeling costs for home-owning families

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Austin’s current fee structure and permitting process for adding onto a home or property is too expensive and cumbersome on residents according to a coalition of City Council members who are trying to reform it.

On Thursday, Austin City Council passed a resolution that directs the city manager to gather data on the city’s permitting process and fee structure regarding adding onto, or remodeling, a home as well as to recommend how the city can improve the process and cost for Austin families.

The Family Homestead Initiative resolution, penned by District 2 Council Member Delia Garza, is part of larger effort to help Austin families stay in place amid increasing affordability issues.

The resolution brought together a coalition of council co-sponsors—District 4’s Greg Casar, District 5’s Ann Kitchen, District 8’s Ellen Troxclair and District 10’s Alison Alter.

A major facet of Austin’s growth rate has been rising housing costs, which exacerbate affordability issues, Garza said. She said the fees required to remodel a home or build an accessory unit to rent out—a strategy touted as a way to lessen the burden of housing costs—are financially inaccessible to many families. These families, she said, are forced to make a decision to either stay in Austin—and not improve their home—or move out.

Garza said the city has taken a piecemeal strategy in tackling home permitting processes, and this new initiative will take a “holistic” approach.

“My hope is that when we look at this whole process together we see the difficulty that homeowners face and that we decide to change some of those and create a more streamlined process,” Garza said. “My hope is that we develop a user-friendly permitting process for our families.”

Alter said the effort looks to lessen the cost burden on families who need to remodel or add onto their home in order to remain in Austin.

“I think this is really important if we are going to put our communities first and find ways for people to stay in place,” Alter said.

The city manager will come back with recommendations no later than Feb. 2, 2018.

Garza said she wants to hear from Austin families who have had issues with the current permitting and fee structure. Residents can call her office at 512-978-2102.

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Christopher Neely

Christopher Neely is Community Impact's Austin City Hall reporter. A New Jersey native, Christopher moved to Austin in 2016 following two years of community reporting along the Jersey Shore. His bylines have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Baltimore Sun and USA Today. He is a graduate of the University of Maryland's Philip Merrill College of Journalism.

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