As home prices and rents continue to skyrocket in the Denver metro area, affordable housing is becoming increasingly out of reach for many. To ease the problem, some are proposing a simple solution with a complicated name: accessory dwelling units (ADUs).
ADUs are auxiliary independent living spaces that exist on a residential property, such as mother-in-law apartments built above garages, small cottages constructed in a backyard, or even retrofitted garages. Homeowners can rent them out while also living on the property.
In Denver, zoning codes initiated in 2010 allowed for more ADUs. “They were added to the zoning code to give more options for people to move in family members such as elder parents, or for seniors to perhaps move in a caretaker and still maintain a private residence,” notes the Denver Post. But now, the target market is much different. “[A]n increasing number of units today are being rented to complete strangers,” reports the newspaper.
Hot Denver neighborhoods such as Berkeley/Regis, Platt Park, Five Points and Whittier currently host the bulk of such units. Meanwhile, suburban areas are also increasingly interested in this idea.
Englewood recently held an open house on ADUs to get public feedback on how ADUs should look and where they should (and should not be) allowed. Arvada has seen an uptick in ADUs, from 23 in 2013 to 77 in 2017. And Golden, with 35 permitted ADUs, is seeing more discussion around the topic.
”Interest started slowly, but we are finding that it has been gathering momentum as home prices have been climbing rapidly over the last few years in Golden,” Golden Planning Manager Rick Muriby told the Post.
As city officials struggle with new realities of the housing market, ADUs—which are generally less expensive to rent than traditional apartments—may become the win-win answer. With this arrangement, homeowners are happy earning rent money to help pay their mortgages, while more citizens find housing they can afford.
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