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Micro-Units may make Austin living more affordable

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The future of affordable living in Austin may be micro-units. Micro-units are apartments measuring 500 square feet or less. Could you do it? It may be a necessity for some.

Chuck Winkley of Metro Realty gave FOX 7 a tour of a 400 square foot unit at the Sterling Crest complex off Red River.

The bedroom and living space is one in the same. The bathroom is just past the closet which is also the laundry room. It's small, but a nice space for single people which according to the city make up over a third of Austin's population.

Council member Chris Riley wants more of these housing options.

"Affordability is a real issue all across Austin, particularly in the central city. More and more people are finding that in order to be able to live in Austin they have to look farther and farther out than they'd really like," said Council Member Chris Riley.

Riley says the city currently has regulations that require a certain size of apartment unit as well as a guaranteed amount of parking spots. He wants to do away with both, thereby lowering housing costs.

"You pay for your apartment and a separate price for parking. That way the ones who are actually using the parking are the ones who actually bear the costs of paying that parking," said Riley.

Riley proposes micro unit housing be built on transit corridors. He says that would make travel easier for those without a vehicle.

Micro living is trendy. People are building what's referred to as tiny homes all across the country. A Georgia man and his wife share 117 square feet. Here locally, Mobile Loaves and Fishes is building small cottages for a housing development for the homeless.

Eliminating required parking, Riley says will not be an easy sell.

"People picture neighborhoods being over-ridden with all sorts of parking that spills over from apartment projects," Riley said. "In fact there have been some experiences elsewhere like Portland where they have seen some spill over from projects like this. So it's something to talk about."

Those talks begin on Thursday. Council members will vote whether to initiate a code amendment process to change the parking requirement to optional. If they vote in favor it will be another four months until they vote again to get change in the books.

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