March 22 2013

The Alley Flat Initiative: Affordable and Sustainable Design

Alley Flat
The Alley Flat Initiative
is a collaborative project between the Gaudalupe Neighborhood Cooperation, the Austin Community Design and Development Center, and the University of Texas Center for Sustainable Development. The initiative’s goal is to demonstrate affordable and adaptable housing types with efficient design and sustainable technologies. The alley flats are “small, detached residential units, accessed from Austin’s extensive network of underutilized alleyways.” The project began with two prototypes; one being completed in June 2008, and the other in August 2009.

In order to qualify for an alley flat unit households must:

●     Have a property that is 7,000 square feet or larger;

●     Have property conditions that are conducive to a secondary unit (for example, parking, trees, size of the main home, configuration of the lot, site setbacks, and McMansion requirements must be considered);

●     Be able to finance and insure the unit; and

●     Commit to the Austin S.M.A.R.T. Housing Program.

Qualifying residents are able to obtain a secondary unit that provides affordability options such as rental income, or alternative housing for elderly family members. In addition, the initiative revitalizes the underutilized alley spaces in Austin, and increases density in existing neighborhoods to help Austin reach its sustainability goals.The initiative is innovative in that it does not require a great deal of resources to make housing more affordable; rather it takes existing property and makes use of unoccupied space to generate supplemental income. The units are affordable due to efficient architecture design, not just inexpensive material. The program appears promising in its delivery of more affordable and sustainable housing within existing neighborhoods, which are located close to the central city and have existing infrastructure such as transportation networks.

Can you identify other opportunities for a program such as this in the Central Texas area?

Credits: Image by Bonnie Rodd. Data linked to sources.

Bonnie Rodd

Originally from the North-Central area of California, Bonnie Rodd found herself at home amongst the creative, participatory, and sometimes off beat Austinites. She holds a B.A. in Urban Studies with a minor in Architecture from the University of Texas at Austin. Her primary interest is sustainable urban development, focusing on alternative transportation and pedestrianism. Believing that the human element in design is invaluable, she dabbled in some social studies as well. This past spring she explored the three legs of sustainability in her thesis titled “Making a Case for Affordable Housing in Transit-Oriented Developments: Austin,TX” and developed a model for single-family affordable housing delivery in such neighborhoods. Bonnie currently resides in Austin, Texas, and will be exposing readers to environmental design issues present in both Austin and Central Texas.

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This entry was posted on Friday, March 22nd, 2013 at 9:01 am and is filed under Architecture, Community/Economic Development, Environment, Environmental Design, Housing, Infrastructure, Land Use, Urban Development/Real Estate, Urban Planning and Design. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


2 Responses to “The Alley Flat Initiative: Affordable and Sustainable Design”

  1. Alexandria Stankovich Says:

    Great piece, Bonnie! Housing is such an important issue for planners and we need to be more innovative about our solutions.

    Thanks for sharing!

    Former GRID blogger

  2. Bonnie Rodd Says:

    Thank you, Alexandria! I think this is definitely one of the more innovative solutions I have seen Austin produce in the face of the rising cost of housing in our city. I appreciate a non-profit coming together with the city to make it work.

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