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Accessory Dwelling Units: Yes in My Backyard!

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, January 31, 2018
Updated: Tuesday, January 30, 2018

What Salt Lake City is Doing to Get ADUs Back in the City

In-law units, tiny homes, granny flats, or an apartment over your garage: accessory dwelling units (ADUs) have been around for a long time. The basic idea is to have a second, smaller dwelling attached to or on the same grounds as your single-family home. This model has been gaining traction over the last few years with the growing popularity of tiny homes and the rising costs of housing across the county, but in many communities they might not be legal to build. Although the idea of a secondary dwelling unit is an old concept, the model slowed in popularity around the middle of the 20th century. Now communities are fighting to change the outdated ordinances that prevent homeowners from building and using these units. 

Salt Lake City, Utah is one of the communities working to make ADUs legal in more areas around the City. Like many communities in the country, vacancy rates in the City for rental units have plunged to below 3 percent. Salt Lake City also expects its population to increase by 30,000 residents over the next few decades. ADUs were widely legal in Salt Lake City until 1995 when the City Council decided to try to restore and preserve single-family neighborhoods in the City by limiting their use. Last year, the City Council introduced an ordinance that would broaden where ADUs can be built and how many will be permitted in the City. There are still proponents of preserving traditional single-family neighborhoods however, leaving the council with the tough job of determining the best path forward.

After several public meetings and discussions about ADUs, the Council decided on December 5, 2017 to send the proposals to change the City’s ADU regulations back to the City’s Planning Division for a renewed discussion. The proposed ordinance will undergo additional planning review and come back to the council for consideration this spring. Current regulations only allow for new ADUs to be built a ½ mile or less from a fixed transit stop for the local Front Runner, TRAX, and S-Line systems. These restrictive requirements have greatly reduced the number of eligible properties and only one ADU permit has been granted by the City since 2012.

In the meantime, NACCED members Salt Lake City and Salt Lake County are working on the additional research and discussion needed to further the ADU debate. The Planning and Transportation Division recently sent out a survey to all the cities in the state regarding ADUs to gather more information about how ADUs are being used in housing plans across the state. There are a few cities in Utah that have more generous ADU regulations and Salt Lake City is hoping to learn from these models.  

In a recent survey, over 54 percent of Salt Lake County residents identified housing opportunities as one of the biggest needs for the county. Additionally, respondents to the survey said that affordable housing was the single largest housing need in the county. ADUs could provide additional affordable housing options and are much less expensive when compared to new construction. The cost of new construction housing in Utah is estimated at $200,000 per unit. The cost of an average ADU is estimated at under $60,000 per unit.

At a time when every city, county and state in the nation is facing an affordable housing crisis, ADUs could provide truly affordable housing on underutilized properties. Additionally, homeowners could create another source of income or a more flexible living arrangement for their family by installing an ADU on their property. Does your community have flexible ADU regulations? Email us at info@nacced.org and tell us how these units function in your community. To learn more about ADUs, visit www.accessorydwellings.org.

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