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Approaching a Year Since Council Allowed Granny Flats, Public Interest Is Low

There is much to like about Accessory Dwelling Units, but that hasn't translated to applications at City Hall.
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Last year, after discussion spanning a couple of years, the City Council finally allowed residents a way to rent out small apartments on their properties. Accessory Dwelling Units were seen as a way to add density in some of Dallas’ more desirable neighborhoods, at a more accessible price point. After all, the city says it’s in the hole some 20,000 affordable units.

There may still be hope in the ADUs, sometimes referred to as granny flats or garage apartments. But to this point the program has drummed up less interest than you might expect.

So far, not a single property owner has applied for an ADU with the Board of Adjustment, which is the way an individual property owner goes about getting one. Otherwise, neighbors can band together to ask the city to place an overlay district on top of their neighborhood, allowing the units en masse. Nobody has gone that route, either, although a neighborhood in Lower Greenville—and another pending in Vickery Place—found a different path to the same result.

When residents actually take advantage, granny flats can offer a bevy of positive side effects. In addition to subtle and sustainable additions to density, they give home owners the ability to earn extra income. So, you’re potentially opening up neighborhoods to property owners and renters alike who would otherwise be unable to move in.

After the Council passed the change last June, the neighborhood in Lower Greenville voiced interest in creating an overlay, according to Donna Moorman, the city’s chief planner. But this is where things become complicated. It was already part of a conservation district—CD 12—covering a stretch from Greenville Avenue east to Skillman Street, and from Belmont Avenue north to Llano Avenue (ugly map of it here). When city staff started to dive into the paperwork, they realized that language in the conservation district ordinance wouldn’t allow ADUs, regardless of overlay.

When the dust cleared, the group instead decided to pursue an amendment to the conservation district code that would allow for ADUs. The City Council granted the change, and so far at least one home is planning to put in a granny flat.

Moorman says that more recently the city has been working with a jagged slice of Vickery Place, conservation district 15, on the west side of Greenville Avenue (slightly less ugly map here). The neighborhood wants to do the same thing.

Is Moorman surprised that, 10 months later and after such Council to-do over garage apartments, there haven’t been more requests?

“That’s hard to say. Yes and no. It hasn’t been a full year,” she says. “I will say this. I am surprised that there haven’t been more people coming to the board of adjustment on a single basis to ask for an ADU.”

Meanwhile, Councilman Philip Kingston, who pushed for Council to allow rentable granny flats, says the problem lies in the cumbersome process. Rather than neighborhoods coming together to opt-in, he’d like to see the flats allowed city-wide, only restricted in certain districts that have grandfathered clauses restricting such added density. Neighborhoods could then choose to opt-out.

“I think after the election, we’ll bring it back up and we’ll pass it as a city-wide,” he says.

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