Want to Rent Out Your Back House? Council member Philip Kingston to Host Informational at Stonewall Jackson Tonight

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5800 Palo Pinto guest house
District 14’s Philip Kingston is proposing a change to city ordinances that will allow the construction and rental of guest houses like this one at 5800 Palo Pinto, as well as garage apartments. Some M Streets residents object.

Head over to Stonewall Jackson Elementary tonight at 6:30 tonight as Dallas City Council member Philip Kingston will be hosting an informational session regarding the recent proposal to allow homeowners to build and rent garage apartments and guest houses inside the district.

Right now, city code precludes the construction of a full-sized kitchen in an “accessory dwelling.” To add one constitutes a duplex — two separate residences on one lot — which is another zoning category entirely. Of course, we have heard that what constitutes a “full-sized kitchen” varies significantly depending on who you talk to at Dallas City Hall. But as more people choose to tear down homes in the M Streets and build new, the lure of rental income compels many property owners to go ahead and put an apartment on top of that detached garage while they’re at it.

Proponents of urbanization and say that in order to generate the density that will create the kind of critical mass for truly walkable neighborhoods, garage apartments and their more innocuous relative the “granny flat” will become a necessity. Plus, with property values soaring and tax assessments climbing in step, more people are being priced out of the M Streets. Building and renting a back house is a great way to generate income, helping people afford their homes and providing affordable rentals, all in one step.

Sounds simple, right?

Of course, like most everything that affects homeowners, there are those who feel that these kinds of developments will irrevocably change the nature and feel of neighborhoods, creating parking issues, and put a strain on infrastructure. If every home in one block added on a “granny flat” or topped their detached garage with an apartment and then leased it out, how many additional cars would that add to already gridlocked streets?

Some M Streets residents have been told that an ordinance allowing this kind of development is a forgone conclusion. Of course, there’s no better way to galvanize a vocal resistance than to basically steamroll them.

If you want to find out more or want to share your opinion on the matter (and who doesn’t these days?) head to Stonewall Jackson Elementary tonight.


Joanna England

If Executive Editor Joanna England could house hunt forever, she absolutely would. Instead she covers the North Texas housing market and the economy for CandysDirt.com. While she started out with the Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University, Joanna's work has appeared in The Dallas Morning News as well as several local media outlets. When she's not knitting or hooping, or enjoying White Rock Lake, she's behind the lens of her camera. She lives in East Dallas with her husband, son, and their furry and feathered menagerie.

Reader Interactions


    • Ken Lampton says

      When I bought my house in the M Street/Lower Greenville neighborhood ten years ago I deliberately bought in the Single Family-Zoned district rather than the Duplex-Zoned district. If I had wanted two families living on each side of me, I would have bought in the Duplex-Zoned district. Didn’t want it then. Don’t want it now. I will spend my time, my money, and my energy to fight this zoning proposal.

  1. CRITIC says

    Is this for additional tax revenue for the city?
    Is this for additional low cost inner city housing?
    Residential single family zoning is not for multi units. Why is this even being discussed ?

    • mmJoanna England says

      A lot of new urbanism theories revolve around the idea of mixing income levels and homeownership with rentals — something of the “small is better” nature. However, after the unit is constructed, won’t the value of the property increase, creating an additional affordability gap?

      • Ken Lampton says

        You are correct, Joanna. If you spend $60,000 to build a two-story garage/apartment in your back yard, the Dallas Central Appraisal District will raise the value of your home by $60,000. This will raise your tax bill. On the other hand, if you simply enclose your garage without applying for a permit you may be able to get the rental income without any change in your tax bill. That’s the way these things often work out in practice.

  2. Kimberly says

    I don’t get the “change the nature and feel of the neighborhoods” argument. Sure, my house is zoned single family, but there is an eight-plex of efficiencies next door on one side and a duplex on the other. About half of my street between Matilda and Skillman are zoned multi-family and parking is only truly an issue on St. Patty’s weekend. Not every single family homeowner wants a garage apartment and those that do aren’t always interest in sharing their property with a tenant. I don’t see the downside, at least not in my stretch of the ‘hood.

    • mmJoanna England says

      I agree. The zoning around the M Streets is very mixed, so adding a garage apartment or leasing a guest house here and there might not make much of a difference. Now, if everyone on a single block with no multi-family decided to do this, that’s a different story. But yes, in your case, I don’t see a downside.

    • Gary Greene says

      I agree with you, Kimberly. What’s wrong with having an ADU or garage apartment here in East Dallas? NOT A THING IS WRONG WITH IT. In fact, it would help the area. Do we have a bunch of snobs living here now that use the stupid parking argument or that their taxes will go higher or whatever other nonsense they dream up in their narrow-minded heads as reasons why it should not be allowed. The fact of the matter is that this area is becoming more and more expensive to live in and such change would allow people to be able to afford to live here more easily, the people that could live in the second dwelling units and the owners who want to generate some income in order to, say, be able to afford to pay the ever-increasing taxes that this neighborhood seems to have. Anyway, thanks for your open-mindedness and your ability to see that this would be a positive for the neighborhood and certainly not a negative.

  3. Jon Anderson says

    For a different perspective, over a year ago Honolulu enacted a program for homeowners to add small second dwellings to their properties. In Honolulu’s case the reasons were high real estate prices (rental and own) and culture. The point of the program wasn’t to necessarily rent to strangers to make the mortgage. Hawai’i has for years had the largest percentage of multi-generational housing in the country. It’s a mix of cost and culture. Especially in an era of bounce-back children. These efficiency units are seen as a way for elderly parents to be cared for or to enable adult children to save for their own place. Of course in the example given here, my response is for people to buy in locations they can afford.

  4. Builder says

    It’s already happening in half the new builds in the neighborhood, just drive around and look at all the two story garages! Take a look at all those that side to Greenville. Whether it’s M/F, T/H or S/F 7.5 they’re building them.

    • Ken Lampton says

      It is obvious there are many big second-story rooms over new garages in my M Street/Lower Greenville neighborhood. And I suspect many of them contain full-scale bathrooms and kitchens. (In my experience the kitchens are put in secretly after the building’s green tag is granted.) But under present zoning code, the presence of a second kitchen means you have built a duplex on Single Family Zoned land. If you advertise the presence of the kitchen by renting out your garage apartment, the city can come in and shut you down at any time. I am not in favor of formally legalizing these rentals. I believe there will be many undesirable consequences if Dallas does so.

      • Gary Greene says

        I strongly disagree with you, Ken. I think that they should be allowed, and I have been a resident of this neighborhood for 50 years now. I know you have sold houses in the area of many, many years. You of all people I would have thought would have been open minded enough to see the value in allowing ADU’s. Dallas is a progressive city and should learn from places like Portland and even Austin or San Antonio that this is good for the community, good for the neighborhood. So Portland, Austin, San Antonio are going to go down the tubes, for instance, because they have allowed their citizens to have garage apartments and other ADU’s? Nonsense.

  5. Karen Eubank says

    It’s been going on for years and it will continue, law or no law. Years ago my neighbors built a huge apartment over their garage and mom moved out and the “kids” moved in. She lived there happily until her death. Now it’s used for guests. Another neighbor downsized from Forest Hills as the kids were growing up and out. One teen is in college and their senior is living in the apartment over the garage where his music does not bother the family. When he goes to college, the next teenager will move up there. I have pals renting out their back houses on air b n b and pals with long term renters in their back houses in Hollywood Heights. NO neighbors are complaining about ANY of this. Remember, people will build these apartment and generally use them for their own guests or as home offices. Not everyone will be able to afford to build an apartment or back house and take the time and energy to deal with renters who are short or long term. I think a lot of chicken little may be going on. The sky is NOT falling. Let people do what they want with their own property. Live and let live.

    • Ken Lampton says

      I agree, Karen. Live and let live. Which, to me, means “keep the rules the way they are”. Keep the prohibition against two dwellings on one lot—where “dwelling” is understood to mean a living unit with a full-scale kitchen plus a full-scale bath. It is the legalization of the second full scale kitchen that I find objectionable. Once you legalize the second kitchen you make it profitable for landlords to come back into neighborhoods and set up shop—like the bad old days in Old East Dallas.

    • Gary Greene says

      I totally agree with you, Karen. Gosh, why do people think they have to run other people’s lives regarding others property under the pretense that their properties and/or lives with be adversely impacted? That’s just plain ridiculous and total discrimination. I am glad you are logical and open minded. The world will not end, the sky will not fall, when ADU’s are legalized here in the city of Dallas. It’s been a long time coming, if you ask me. Thanks for your support for this positive change. I am definitely a proponent of this ordinance and hope it passes sooner than later.

  6. Ken Lampton says

    At last night’s meeting Councilman Kingston said the development of this ordinance is in the early stages. He speculated that nothing final would be passed until 2017. Everyone who cares about this issue needs to keep track of the development of all the terms in the ordinance as it comes together this year. Because this is one of those cases where the devil is in the details.
    Will there be a limit on the square footage of these “back yard rent houses?” Will it be required that an additional off-street parking space must be paved when such a rent house is built? Will it be required that the second dwelling must have its own water, gas, and electrical meters? How will our neighborhood schools be affected if too many of these rent houses get built? Will the presence of these rent houses make a neighborhood’s home prices go up or down? Many questions. At present we have few answers.

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