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Localities and States Push for Wider
COURTESY OF NAHB NOW
ging parents who want to maintain a level
of independence. Young adults who can't
find an aﬀordable place to live. A person
with disabilities who benefits from family
support but also seeks autonomy.
What if there was a simple solution to
help communities struggling with high housing costs, limited
developable land and a demand for multigenerational living?
An increasing number of communities around the United
States have found that there is such a solution: accessory
dwelling units (ADUs). Also called an in-law suite, granny
flat or secondary dwelling unit, an ADU oﬀers an additional
self-contained living unit that typically has its own kitchen,
bedroom(s) and bathroom space, while maintaining independence and privacy from the primary home.
ADUs can take many forms: a second small backyard
cottage on the same grounds as (or attached to) a single-family
house, an apartment over the garage or a basement apartment.
They oﬀer a relatively inexpensive means to provide more
aﬀordable housing options in a neighborhood without changing neighborhood character. ADUs have the added appeal of
generally not needing new infrastructure or public investment,
and not contributing to a concentrated increase in density. And
in addition to providing additional space for family members,
an ADU may also serve as a rental unit, providing additional
income for the homeowner.
According to a recent NAHB survey, in the past 12 months,
one-fifth of remodelers created an ADU by converting an existing space; a similar number also created an ADU by building
a new addition. More than 75% of remodelers indicated such
projects cost upward of $50,000 to construct, with only 6%
completing projects valued at $25,000 or less (or what is often
considered a minor improvement).
Here are how communities across the country are integrating these solutions:
* New Hampshire: After strong advocacy from the New
Hampshire Home Builders Association, with a broad coalition of housing advocates, including Housing Action New
Hampshire and New Hampshire's Business and Industry
Association, New Hampshire passed an ordinance in 2017
that requires local zoning ordinances to allow ADUs nearly
everywhere that single-family houses are permitted.
The New Hampshire law prohibits communities from
requiring that the units have fewer than two bedrooms,
be smaller than 750-square-feet or that a person related
to the owner live in the ADU. However, towns and cities
may require that one of the units is owner-occupied. Local
municipalities also have oversight over parking requirements, and can limit ADUs to one per home and institute
* California: Researchers have suggested that small-scale
infill development such as ADUs could account for as
much as half of California's new development capacity in
coming decades. Eﬀective Jan. 1, 2018, California adopted
legislation to support the development of ADUs alongside a
primary single-family residence along with easing parking
restrictions and fees from utilities.
San Francisco has also pioneered carving ADUs out of
existing apartment buildings. New units are being created
out of garages, storage spaces, even vacant boiler rooms.
San Francisco's regulatory innovations have helped to add
hundreds of new ADUs to the pipeline since 2017.
The keys to success of San Francisco's ADU regulations
Fast-tracking plan reviews
Adding flexibility to city guidelines, and
Cultivating lender and industry support.
Such measures would easily help encourage the development of ADUs elsewhere, too.
* Minnesota: Over the last five years, both of the Twin Cities
have explored how to increase housing diversity and add
density in residential neighborhoods. Minneapolis and St.
Paul demonstrate diﬀerent paths to advance access to ADUs:
one fast track, the other slower.
In 2014, Minneapolis introduced an ordinance to allow all
types of ADUs - internal, attached and detached - to be
Build Maryland Fall 2019
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