Category Archives: ADUs

11/24 Proposed code amendment would allow granny flats in Salem, Oregon

Salem Weekly News logoSalem needs more housing, city studies conclude, and the city has come up with a plan to try to address that need.

The City is considering allowing accessory dwelling units (ADUs), which include granny flats, mother-in-law units, tiny houses and conversions of garages, sheds, basements and attics into living spaces.

Proponents say ADUs can expand housing choices, help provide affordable housing and meet Salem’s unmet need for more multifamily housing.

An ADU is a second housing unit that is part of a main house, or it is a detached unit that is smaller but on the same lot.

This form of housing has never been allowed in Salem, said city Project Manager Eunice Kim. Earlier this year, the council directed staff to come up with a proposal to allow them.

“When zoning was first in place in the 1920s they were never put in [city codes],” Kim said. “In recent years we’ve gotten a lot of input from the public asking them to be allowed…”

A proposed code amendment is slated to go to the Planning Commission and City Council for consideration in early 2017, Kim said. Public input will go into drafting the proposed code amendment.

Read more –

10/03 Can tiny houses help solve Ventura County’s woes?

Vina Lustado coming out of her tiny house

Vina Lustado coming out of her tiny house

As Ventura County, California struggles with high home prices, expensive rentals and little room to build, some advocates are proposing a solution: tiny homes that fit living essentials into less than 400 square feet of space.

Last week, about 50 people gathered at the Ventura County Government Center for a workshop about the benefits of tiny homes, ways they can be incorporated into a community’s housing stock and regulatory changes that can help make that happen.

Dan Fitzpatrick, California Chapter Leader of the American Tiny House Association, led the workshop along with members of The Tiny House Collaborative, a coalition of tiny house enthusiasts. The presenters said tiny homes are one solution to the affordable housing crisis in Ventura and elsewhere, particularly for single people and couples.

“Tiny is the next big thing,” said Fitzpatrick, who indicated tiny homes are a popular option for millennials struggling to afford traditional housing, and also baby boomers looking to downsize. “It is sweeping across the country.”

Tiny homes are typically built on wheels so they can be moved, and they come in a variety of designs. They are different from mobile homes and recreational vehicles because of their size, and because they’re designed to look like regular houses, only smaller, Fitzpatrick explained. The design flexibility means communities can require tiny homes to look like other houses in the neighborhood, he noted.

Affordability is a key advantage of tiny homes, advocates said. While the average home price in Ventura County is around $500,000, a tiny home would cost between $85,000 and $90,000 to build and connect to utilities if located on the same property as a regular house, Fitzpatrick said. The homes could also be rented out for about $725 a month, he said, much lower than the county’s average apartment rental price of more than $1,700 a month.

Fitzpatrick outlined how local governments can make it legal for property owners to have tiny homes in their backyards as second dwelling units. For the most part, that’s currently not possible in Ventura County, although the city of Ojai is studying how it might change that. It’s up to local governments to make those adjustments, Fitzpatrick said.

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Minnesota Senate passes bill to allow ADUs as caregiver cottages

The Minnesota Senate overwhelmingly passed legislation on May 2 authorizing the use and zoning of “tiny homes” as a housing option for the elderly, disabled, and those nearing the end of life.

Sen. Torrey Westrom, R-Elbow Lake, was a strong advocate of the measure and praised the bipartisan bill as an innovative approach.

“Not only does this provide an opportunity for families to have a hands-on role in the care of a parent, spouse, or loved one, but it also allows for a dramatic reduction in health care costs,” said Westrom.

Westrom said it’s important for the state to develop innovative ways to prepare for more baby boomers who are set to retire.

“The state spends a significant part of our budget to help pay for the care of senior citizens, so anything we can do that provides for more cost effective independent living options is a good thing,” he said.

The “tiny homes,” also referred to as “granny pods,” are homes that are limited to 300 square feet and reside on the existing property of a family member.

The legislation allows for these temporary homes, which are often forbidden by local zoning ordinances, to remain for up to a year.

However, the resident of the home must be under health care.

Additionally, the bill allows for local municipalities to opt out of the requirements if they don’t want to allow the tiny homes.


Seattle Director’s Report on Removing Barriers to ADUs

accessory dwelling unit
In September 2014, the City Council adopted Resolution 31547 directingthe Department of Planning and Development (DPD) to explore policy changes that would increase the production of attached accessory dwelling units (ADUs) and detached accessory dwelling units (DADUs or backyard cottages), including regulatory changes, incentives, and marketing and promotion. In October 2015, DPD released a report discussing a range of potential policy options that could help achieve this goal. Staff from the Office of Planning and Community Development (OPCD) then conducted several months of outreach and engagement with the public, current and prospective backyard cottage owners, and people who design and build backyard cottages.

In January and February 2016, Councilmember Mike O’Brien and OPCD co-hosted two community meetings to get feedback on a number of potential Land Use Code changes and solicit ideas and strategies for making it easier to create backyard cottages and ADUs. Attendees at these meetings weighed in on several potential policy options that would make it easier for people to create housing through backyard cottages and ADUs. Several presentation boards described the policy questions and provided space for people to respond and leave additional comments. OPCD staff also distributed and received hundreds of comment forms with these same questions. The OPCD website has a summary of the public input received throughout this process.

Based on this feedback, OPCD staff have prepared legislation for the City Council that would amend various provisions in the Land Use Code related to the creation of backyard cottages and ADUs. This report describes these amendments. In brief, this legislation would modify the development standards that regulate the siting, location, and design of backyard cottages; allow an ADU and a backyard cottage on the same lot; and change the parking and owner-occupancy requirements that apply to both ADUs and backyard cottages. The proposal responds to identified barriers to creation of ADUs and backyard cottages and reflects
the input that OPCD and Councilmember O’Brien gathered on these specific potential policy options during months of outreach and at the two public meetings in early 2016.

Download the full report: Seattle Director’s Report on Removing Barriers to Backyard Cottages and Accessory Dwelling Units

05/17 Relaxing rules on “Accessory Dwelling Units” drastically increased affordable housing in Durango

Screen Shot 2016-05-22 at 9.24.16 AM

Planners call them Accessory Dwelling Units—plus the inevitable acronym, ADUs. What they mean are the granny flats and in-law apartments sprinkled throughout cities and towns across the land, the finished basements, above-garage studios, rehabbed carriage houses, and other outbuildings on parcels generally zoned for single-family homes.

But here’s what they really are: an instant source of affordable housing, if only they could be freed from extensive restrictions that cities and towns have in place that tightly limit who can live there.

When I was at the Office for Commonwealth Development under Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, we tried to increase the supply of new multi-family housing at smart growth locations, in town centers or by transit stations. Yet it quickly became apparent that there were thousands of existing homes already, in the form of Accessory Dwelling Units. The trick was just to open them up.

This was no small task, as it turned out. Fueled by NIMBYism and concerns about density and school enrollment and parking and congestion, cities and towns wrote reams of codes requiring that property owners prove any occupants of ADUs were actually related. If not, owners could expect to be visited by inspectors checking out separate entrances and working kitchens and evidence of occupation, and brace for a fine. Eagle-eyed neighbors spotting a second mailbox or satellite dish were more than happy to alert the authorities.

In the face of this kind of code paralysis and regulatory over-reach, it’s understandable that reformers would just give up, and try to change policy in other ways. But in recent years, a sensible program of disentanglement has emerged from an unlikely place—the small city of Durango, Colorado, just north of the New Mexico border…

Durango overhauled its Land Use and Development Code, which called out Accessory Dwelling Units as an acceptable component of housing stock…

The big problem, however, was what to do with existing ADUs.

Since many of these homes were technically illegal, a form of “ADU Amnesty” was launched. Starting with two neighborhoods as a pilot program, the city asked owners to come forward about ADUs on their property. Residents could fess up in three categories—pre-1941, when there were essentially no rules about ADUs; 1941 to 1989, when ADUs could be considered legal but non-conforming use; and 1989 to the present, when tighter zoning was in place.

If somebody established an ADU completely under the radar, they were asked to pay the fee they were supposed to pay, ranging from $2,000 to $9,000, and the property got logged into the city’s inventory database. Owners signed affidavits on basic structural safety, and filled out forms on the number of occupants, age of the structure, and the utilities in place, and furnished a photo.

Getting the transactional details on the record was basically a process of regularizing what was a robust informal economy. And with the existing ADUs thus inventoried, and the rules in place for new ADUs, the city was all set, right? Not exactly. Opposition was fierce, and clever.

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05/16 D.C. shift could make tiny houses more abundant in backyards

Brian Levy in 2014 stands in the doorway of his 210-square-foot tiny home in Northeast Washington.

Brian Levy in 2014 stands in the doorway of his 210-square-foot tiny home in Northeast Washington.

The popular tiny-house movement may get a big boost in the District this fall when significantly looser restrictions regarding “accessory dwelling units” — the technical name for the trendy residences — go into effect.

Under provisions in the city’s new zoning code, from Sept. 6, homeowners will have an easier time getting the necessary approval to build and rent out tiny houses. Given the lack of affordable housing in the District, advocates say they think they’ll see a dramatic increase in the number of rentable tiny homes, micro-homes or two-story carriage houses popping up alongside gardens, tree houses and swing sets behind homes all over the city.

Previously, owners seeking to rent out the units were required to argue their cases before the Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA) to receive an exception. Under the new rule, the structures will be permitted in some neighborhoods as a matter of right: Once homeowners acquire building permits from the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA), they will be free to build and then rent out the units.

The changes are not applicable citywide: They are largely limited to R-1, R-2 and R-3 zones, which cover outer neighborhoods such as Brookland, Chevy Chase and American University Park, where there are larger single-family homes.

Other regulations restrict size and alley access: The tiny houses cannot be more than 35 percent of the gross floor area of the primary home, which must be at minimum 1,200 square feet in most zones and 2,000 square feet in R-1 zones.They must be adjacent to either a 24-foot-wide alley, or a 15-foot-wide alley and at most 300 feet from a main road for fire safety. And the principal dwelling must be owner-occupied.

Still, advocates say they think that the rules are not overly restrictive and that many homeowners will jump at the opportunity to create rental units.

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Minnesota to allow tiny houses on wheels in backyards as caregiver units

05/04/2016 – The state is about to pass a law for tiny houses as ADU’s that would allow a tiny house on wheels in the backyard of a family member. The bill has passed to house and it has been forwarded to the Senate which is expected to pass it, then onward for the Governor to sign into law. It is expected to be effective July 1, 2016.

The units must also be ANSI 119.2 compliant and on trailers towable with at least a 1 ton truck.

The bill provides an initial conditional use permit term of six months, with an option for renewal:

04/03 More good news! New Hampshire approves tiny houses on foundations in backyards

Matt Bonner's tiny house on wheels would not be okay in NH backyards, but tiny houses on foundations soon will be.

Matt Bonner’s tiny house on wheels would not be okay in NH backyards, but tiny houses on foundations soon will be.

In Manchester, the 19th-century mill buildings, the affordable housing of their day, have become upscale apartments. A two-bedroom unit in a building far from the city’s downtown is offered at $1,350 per month. Apartments in mill buildings downtown rent for much more than that.

Most of New Hampshire and the nation is in the midst of an affordable housing crisis. One in four renters, and one in three low-income renters, pay more than one-third of their income in rent. Home ownership is at its lowest level in two decades. Most millennials, burdened as they are with student loans, can’t afford homes or would rather rent than own.

The situation is severe in Concord, where the rental vacancy rate is under 2 percent, the lowest of any city in the state. That affects not just the availability of housing for the homeless, but nearly everyone, including the young people the city wants to keep or attract and the employers who want to hire them. The shortage is a drag on the economy.

Last week, Monitor reporter David Brooks wrote about a legislative change that, in a small way, could help.

The law, which goes into effect on June 1, 2017 [note, other article just says June, implying June of this year], gives homeowners the right, despite local ordinances to the contrary, to add accessory housing units to their home. No longer do the unit’s residents have to be relatives. They will be open to anyone.

Last year, the Center for New Hampshire Public Policy Studies found a fundamental mismatch between the state’s housing stock and what the market wants.

The state and Concord are chock-full of big, old homes, or big suburban homes, but today’s buyers want to rent or buy small starter homes and apartments, preferably in the center city…

Given the shortage, a few cities and towns have increased density limits for workforce housing and made other permitting and zoning changes to encourage construction. That helps.

Another trend, the “tiny house” movement, also holds promise.

Read more here –

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