Many of Denver’s residents believe that accessible dwelling units (ADUs) can be used as a tool in pushing back against the housing crisis. There’s only one problem, according to ADU advocates: Too few of the units are being built. Between 2010 and 2021, the city issued construction permits for just 393 ADUs, which is roughly 33 permits each year. The highest number of permits issued in one year was in 2019, when 71 permits were issued. Rezoning for ADUs has been the biggest hurdle for ADU construction, but The Denver Post reports that City Council President Jamie Torres and District 1 Councilwoman Amanda Sandoval are tackling this problem one neighborhood at a time. Success stories are beginning to crop up throughout Denver, and some hope is to create a city-wide solution to the housing crisis.
"Everybody understands the potential and doesn’t understand why they’re not being built," said Renee Martinez-Stone, a former Denver Planning Board member and Denver Housing Authority staffer who is leading a program focused on fostering more ADU development in west Denver neighborhoods.
"There’s a pretty complex regulator environment for ADUs,” said Martinez-Stone, who recently authored a report detailing the challenges homeowners in west Denver face. “That’s one of the biggest obstacles in Denver. Small development is disproportionately impacted by fees and requirements.”