Fri. Jul 19th, 2024

Disability Committee asks Council to address group homes in land use code

By meerna Jul11,2024
Disability Committee asks Council to address group homes in land use code

Thursday, July 11, 2024 by Chad Swiatecki

Changes to the municipal code that may affect regulations regarding group homes for seniors and people with disabilities have prompted the City Council to submit a motion to introduce further changes to the Zoning Code.

The Mayor’s Committee on People with Disabilities voted last month to approve a recommendation that restores basic guidelines for group homes that were eliminated or weakened under December’s HOME initiative.

This change removed the limit on the number of unrelated people who could live in a single-family home in order to facilitate the opening of cooperative apartments for students.

The definitions for two types of group homes, which are typically run as for-profit businesses, were also removed in the code change. That raised concerns among local disability advocates that safety and operational reviews by Austin Code and the Austin Fire Department would be challenged or would not include qualifying properties where medical care is provided.

The Commission asked the Council to introduce a conditional use permit requirement for group homes located in a single-family zone for properties with seven to fifteen residents, to reinstate licensing and inspection requirements for homes with seven or more unrelated adults, and to remove the provision requiring third parties to provide food to residents.

The commission first heard about possible impacts on group homes at its April meeting, when Zoning and Planning Commissioner Betsy Greenberg suggested it was possible the city could allow group homes for up to 15 residents, with little regulation or oversight.

Deputy Mayor Leslie Pool, who has spearheaded the HOME and HOME 2 policy lists, said Greenberg is using the group home issue to stir up opposition to HOME’s larger effort to increase housing density. She said group homes remain covered by the city’s building code and retain the ability to inspect and otherwise regulate these businesses to ensure the health and safety of their residents.

Pool and her staff said eliminating or easing occupancy limits is necessary to address affordability issues and eliminate discriminatory practices, and similar changes have been made in other cities across the county.

“We’re just moving elements of the building code out of the zoning chapter. They’re still there, but they’re in a different part of the code. That’s basically what’s happening,” she said Austin Monitor in April.

There are no actions related to the group home issue on the agenda for Friday’s commission meeting.

Photo available under the Creative Commons license.

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By meerna

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