AUSTIN (KXAN) – The Austin City Council approved on consent Thursday a resolution that will reduce barriers to relocating homes, increasing the potential for historical preservation and reducing waste associated with demolitions.
District 5 Council Member Ryan Alter was behind the item, saying it will “promote preservation, affordability and sustainability throughout Austin,” Alter said at the council meeting Thursday.
The resolution will raise awareness about the option to relocate a structure when a property owner might otherwise consider demolition, streamline the process by making it cheaper and faster, and create a market for those who are interested in buying and selling these types of homes, Alter said.
“With the concerns that increased density will result in the demolition of older, smaller homes, house relocation provides an opportunity to preserve existing housing,” Alter said. “Relocation helps divert waste to lands fills… 25% of the waste in our landfills is a result of demolitions. We need to do everything we can to not only address our affordability crisis but our climate crisis,” he added.
Preservation Austin worked with Alter on the resolution. Executive Director Lindsey Derrington said that this resolution will help keep the older, charming pieces of Austin alive while the city continues to transform.
“We’re literally throwing away hundreds of older historic buildings every year,” Derrington said. “There are all sorts of things you can take out of these homes and repurpose elsewhere – [It’s about] really looking at them as opportunities for housing and not just trash,” she continued.
Derrington told KXAN that relocating homes used to be much more common in the 20th century, but in recent years, the city has tightened restrictions surrounding the process.
The majority of the homes being demolished now are smaller ones – around 1000 square feet – getting knocked down to make room for bigger developments. Costs associated with demolition and moving the debris to a landfill tend to be high as well, Derrington said.
“They’re just the cute house down the street. They’re also more affordable,” She said. In terms of strategies for preserving homes in Austin, “the rule of thumb has always been keep the building in place — you need to keep its historical associations to keep its historical context. But if the alternative is putting these homes in the landfill, we for sure want to give them to people who want them so they can create housing elsewhere.”
“Anytime that we can save historic buildings is a win for us,” she continued.