How Durango Colorado Increased Its Affordable Housing Inventory

May 17, 2016

As multigenerational living continues to grow in popularity across the country, there is an increasing number of accessory dwelling units popping up on properties and lots. These accessory dwelling units, or ADUs, take the form of granny flats and in-law apartments and can be their own detached building on a property or can be incorporated into the main structure itself.

On the surface, these ADUs look as though they could be used not just for aging parents or grown children to live in, but as an instant source of affordable housing, too. But thanks to a myriad of restrictions and regulations, who is actually allowed live in an ADU is generally reserved for relatives of the property owner.

But if these restrictions could be relaxed, thousands of ADUs could be opened up as forms of affordable housing. The city of Durango, Colo. has done just that, CityLab reports.

Durango overhauled its Land Use and Development Code so ADUs were considered an acceptable component of housing stock. Now, new ADUs can be built as long as they adhere to a reasonable list of standards such as a limit on the number of occupants, square footage rules, an owner-occupied home requirement, and a ban on short-term vacation rentals.

As for ADUs that were already in existence, many of which were constructed illegally, an amnesty program was created to get these properties into the city’s inventory database. Any homeowner with an ADU on their property could come forward and, if the building was constructed completely under the radar, pay the fee they were supposed to pay, which ranged from $2,000 to $9,000. Then, the owners had to sign affidavits on basic structural safety and fill out forms regarding the number of occupants, age of the structure, and the utilities in place.

However, even with all of this in place, opposition to the program struck harshly and swiftly, with people saying that allowing for these ADUs to be used as a form of affordable housing would turn neighborhoods into slums.

While Durango has increased its stock of affordable housing, it hasn’t exactly been able to tap into it yet.

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