Texas Senate passes bill to eliminate single-family zoning in neighborhoods

The Texas Senate passed a bill on Thursday that opponents say would eliminate single-family zoning in neighborhoods across the state. 

Supporters of the bill say it will give property owners the right to have what's known as a "mother-in-law" suite on their property, but they could also rent that unit out in a single-family neighborhood.

It is now up to Texas House lawmakers to decide if the Senate bill should move forward. 

Right now, cities decide where to allow accessory dwelling units, which is basically a second property behind a home or attached to a home. 

Under Senate Bill 1412, city zoning on ADUs would no longer apply. 

State Senator Bryan Hughes (R-Tyler) says he introduced SB 1412 so homeowners can build an additional dwelling unit on their property, like a mother-in-law suite or garage apartment. The ADU could then be rented as a way to create more affordable housing. 


"There are some political subdivisions are trying to prevent property owners from building accessory dwelling units," he said.

At a committee hearing on April 3, people spoke both for and against the bill. 

"It is fair to say this is a nationwide movement toward liberalizing land-use restrictions, moving in the direction of Texas, in terms of property rights," said Matt Festa, professor at South Houston College of Law.

"The broad breadth of this bill makes it a neighborhood destruction bill," claimed Matt Mahoney with the Fredericksburg Neighborhood Coalition. "Investors come in and buy up properties. They will buy up the larger properties where they can rent out the main property and two ADUs.

Arlington resident David Schwarte, co-founder of the Texas Neighborhood Coalition, is working to raise awareness about the bill. 

"99% of Texans have no idea this is being cooked up in Austin and will affect their lives," he said.

Schwarte says the bill would allow the density of neighborhoods to double.

"Doubles the traffic, doubles parking problems, and most importantly is at odds with the reason people bought single family residential homes," he said.

Schwarte says the ADU concept works in some neighborhoods but also points to the issue of local control and believes it should be a decision for city council members and not lawmakers in Austin. 

"It does not make any sense for remote legislators across the state to try to straight jacket cities with a decision about ADUs. It should be left with local control," he said.

We asked SMU political scientist Matthew Wilson why Republican lawmakers, who are traditionally supporters of local control, are trying to strip it away in this bill.

"Republicans would cast it in terms of property rights," he said. "There is an argument to be made there, but it is unusual to see a state step in and invalidate local attempts at zoning and control of property use."

It will now be up to House lawmakers to decide whether to approve House Bill 2789 or one like it. SB 1412 was unopposed in the Senate.