Aug 3, 2023 - Development

San Antonio wants design ideas for a unique kind of housing

Illustration of a lightbulb with a house-shaped filament

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Get your pencils ready.

  • The city wants you to create new designs for what casitas could look like in San Antonio.

Catch up fast: Casitas are those tiny homes behind larger houses that can be rented out or occupied by family (leading to their other name, in-law suites). They're also called accessory dwelling units, or ADUs.

Driving the news: The city opened the design competition last week. The submission deadline is Sept. 15.

Flashback: The City Council in November approved changes to San Antonio's development code aimed at making it easier to build casitas.

  • The buildings can now be larger at up to 1,600 square feet instead of 800. They can include any number of bedrooms, instead of the maximum one bedroom previously allowed.

Context: City officials said the eased rules would help create more affordable housing in San Antonio while increasing density and adding income for homeowners.

  • But neighborhood groups were concerned the rules would lead to more short-term rentals like Airbnbs, since there's no affordable rent requirement for casitas.

Details: The grant-funded competition includes nine written prompts about how casitas could benefit families, who could rent one, what amenities or public transit should be nearby and more.

  • Competitors can also draw what a casita and its features could look like.
  • Prizes range from $250 to $500 in various categories, including best entries from K-12 students and older adults.

What they're saying: "This competition is an opportunity to spark conversation and hear from communities about how they imagine ADUs in their neighborhoods," Veronica Garcia, director of the city's Neighborhood and Housing Services Department, said in a statement.

  • "Diverse responses will help us shape future ADU policies and programs so they can best serve the residents of San Antonio," Seema Kairam, associate at architecture firm Able City, said in a statement.

What's next: Submissions may be made online or by mail; competition booklets may be picked up or dropped off at any participating city library or senior center.


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