• Ongoing coronavirus / COVID-19 discussion: how is the pandemic affecting your community, workplace, and wellness? 🦠

    Working from home? So are we. Come join us! Cyburbia is a friendly big tent, where we share our experiences and thoughts about urban planning practice, planning adjacent topics, and whatever else comes to mind. No ads, no spam, no social distancing.

Housing How are accessory dwelling units working for you?

luckless pedestrian

Super Moderator
Staff member
Moderator
Messages
12,215
Points
50
We have had a few discussions on Accessory Dwelling units speckled in the forums and I have a decent draft zoning article from research; but what I need to know is how are they working? Are people using this part of the ordinance to create the kind of housing you were hoping for?

{Not sure if this is the righ forum so I can move this}
 
Last edited by a moderator:

Faust_Motel

Cyburbian
Messages
544
Points
23
We have had a few discussions on Accessory Dwelling units speckled in the forums and I have a decent draft zoning article from research; but what I need to know is how are they working? Are people using this part of the ordinance to create the kind of housing you were hoping for?
We are very permissive of ADU's and have been for over a decade. (by right as an accessory to any SFH, administrative approval only- practically "over-the-counter") In a municipality with 10,000 people, we probably permit no more than 4-6/year, have never denied one. It definitely creates housing we are hoping for, but not very much of it. Not everybody has the money to build one, not everybody wants to be a landlord to somebody living on the property. If there was more demand, if rents were higher (they are pretty darn high and vacancy rates hover below 3%), or if there was seasonal demand related to tourism, we might see more.

As an aside, we do not regulate short-term rentals at all. My most recent troll through airbnb revealed fewer than 10 units in town available to rent. So whatever's keeping these numbers so low, it isn't us.
 

arcplans

As Featured in "High Times"
Messages
6,628
Points
32
Yes and No. Have we seen an uptick in applications, yes. In California, each jurisdiction is different. Some charge development impact fees, others, like mine, waives them. Additionally we have so many "bootleg" units that really the focus should be enforcement, and letting folks know it's rather easy to apply and obtain an adu permit. The other issue is that people don't want to sink in the soft costs of a 5K to have a set of plans completed. We are contemplating having a set of "stock" ADU plans that people can use that is 500 sf.
 

ursus

Cyburbian, raised by Cyburbians
Messages
5,071
Points
25
We've had what I consider great success with them so far. City is about 50,000 people, we're allowing ADUs as a conditional use in all residential zones with certain requirements. We probably process 15 - 20 a year. I rarely have PC meetings that don't include at least one ADU application. And I'm not making this up - after they're implemented I have not had a single complaint about the property for code enforcement. Not 1. People here digging 'em.
 

NHPlanner

A shadow of my former self
Staff member
Moderator
Messages
9,927
Points
40
Modified our Zoning a couple years ago to change them to being permitted by right, and removing family restrictions on occupancy (which I don't think were ever legally defensible)...and we've averaged 15-20 new ADU's per year since we adopted the changes (community for just under 26,000).
 

DVD

Cyburbian
Messages
14,642
Points
51
I always think we should be more permissive, we only allow it in acre + lots and this odd wannabe rural area south of the city, but when I think about it I know what we'll get is a small handful of homeowners supplementing their income of taking care of family and the majority will end up being developers buying houses in the "right" neighborhoods (smaller lot, closer to downtown, older, historic) and then building small units and renting out both for outrageous sums while putting little effort into actually improving housing stock. We'll end up with a neighborhood of rentals and hipsters who think it's cool to live in a tiny house in someone's back yard. Then of course developers will be screaming for us to allow something bigger than an accessory dwelling and everything will suddenly be duplexes. It's the end of the world people.
 

ursus

Cyburbian, raised by Cyburbians
Messages
5,071
Points
25
I always think we should be more permissive, we only allow it in acre + lots and this odd wannabe rural area south of the city, but when I think about it I know what we'll get is a small handful of homeowners supplementing their income of taking care of family and the majority will end up being developers buying houses in the "right" neighborhoods (smaller lot, closer to downtown, older, historic) and then building small units and renting out both for outrageous sums while putting little effort into actually improving housing stock. We'll end up with a neighborhood of rentals and hipsters who think it's cool to live in a tiny house in someone's back yard. Then of course developers will be screaming for us to allow something bigger than an accessory dwelling and everything will suddenly be duplexes. It's the end of the world people.
That's the thing: you gotta write it well, and you gotta get your building official on board if you allow the ADU to be part of the main dwelling (attached). They have a little heart-burn to overcome about whether or not it truly represents a "two-family" dwelling at that point and requires code changes. Ours looks specifically for upgrades to smoke/CO detection being connected throughout, compliant egress windows in the bedrooms, and separate access to a heat source for the main living area (prolly not a thing for you down there in hell's furnace, DVD.) We have a lot of people get their old "mother in law apartments" converted for use as a legal ADU just using modern tech for smoke detectors (nest or whatever) and baseboard heaters or fireplace inserts in the ADU portion.
 

DVD

Cyburbian
Messages
14,642
Points
51
What we allow is basically everything but the stove. If we cut off 220 for the stove it's not a 2nd unit. I still get conflicted between helping people who need it and giving crappy developers the green light. I get enough problems just dealing with duplex and triplex housing. So we are hitting some of the missing house, just not enough. I think we could handle triplex and quadplex better. More like a building permit and not requiring a full site plan, but I understand the need for site plans when half the times I hear how they just aren't able to fit a covered parking space anywhere on the property while trying to cram three units on a tiny residential lot. Sorry, feeling cynical today.
 

mendelman

Unfrozen Caveman Planner
Staff member
Moderator
Messages
13,693
Points
53
For about the last 5 years, we've permitted them as 'In-law suites' requiring conditional approval, ownership occupancy of the principal house and part of the principal building.

We haven't had any come through the formal conditional approval process nor had any generated through illegal creation (that I'm aware of).

I don't think we're ready (as a community) for a full, by-right ADU ordinance.
 

ThePinkPlanner

Cyburbian
Messages
365
Points
12
Vermont state statute directs municipalities to allow them if they are under 30% of total habitable living space of primary du, if primary du is owner occupied, no more than 1 br. If new construction, can be reviewed as conditional use. Most municipalities follow the state direction, though some are more permissive. We see a half dozen per year or so in our community of 18k. Whats preventing more? A few things I guess. For one, I don't think most people even know of them as an option and its not something we've been proactive on. We do have a relatively new affordable housing committee and I believe it is on their work plan to promote them. The other thing I hear is that people are afraid of the process and start up costs- will they have to hire an engineer. Lastly, some people stop when they hear the fees- wastewater connection fees run a little over $1k.

I do think the ordinance is successful though and we'll continue to see growth in them given the changing demographics (single person or childless households) and the proximity to a college town.
 
Top