Are ADUs a response to affordable housing stock?

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Secondary suites are a growing trend in the United States, but building restrictions in Oklahoma cities have reduced the numbers. The ADU behind this downtown Edmond residence serves as an Airbnb rental. (Courtesy Photo/David Chapman)

Secondary suite construction is on the rise in many US cities as a solution to the shortage of affordable single-family housing.

California, Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Oregon all allow ADUs statewide, as do many local governments.

The American Planning Association says that many cities and counties allow ADUs as of right in one or more single-family zoning districts, subject to specific usage standards. Common provisions include an owner occupancy requirement (for one of two dwellings), dimensional and design standards to ensure neighborhood compatibility, and off-street parking requirements.

“I love the concept. It’s our best way to build affordable housing,” said David Chapman, CEO of Realty1 LLC and associate professor of real estate at the University of Central Oklahoma. ADUs are typically 700 square feet in size. , did he declare.

“In other places they’re very popular, but not yet in Oklahoma,” Chapman said. “Our municipalities don’t allow them.”

They offer a relatively inexpensive way to provide more affordable housing options in a neighborhood without changing the character of the neighborhood, according to the National Association of Home Builders.

In Oklahoma City, most residential properties are zoned R-1, the most restrictive residential use.

“It will not allow two units on one property,” said Scott Wise, plan review supervisor for the city. “For the most part, it’s a density issue.”

A dwelling is defined as having a kitchen, a bathroom, a living space and a sleeping space. Owners frequently submit ADU plans that meet this definition, Wise said.

If the property is zoned R-1, City staff cannot approve them. “We don’t like to be the bad guys, but we’re beholden to the code,” he said.

Unless the plans call for the renovation of a legally existing structure on the property, the only choices are to seek rezoning or apply for a waiver, Wise said. A waiver request costs $1,450, which is non-refundable.

Rezoning is more likely to be approved if multiple adjacent properties are considered together as a planned unit development, he said.

This is the approach Chapman is taking to a development he wants to build in Edmond. It will seek rezoning for a planned one-block unit development for the construction of 12 two-bedroom homes, each with a one-bedroom ADU.

Chapman has built ADUs on properties in Oklahoma City by converting existing freestanding garages or other secondary structures, and he built his in Edmond’s central business district, which has few restrictions.

“The one behind my house is an Airbnb. Our garage is below, so it’s really a garage apartment,” he said.

ADUs can also be used as an office, art studio, home gym, or residence for an adult child returning home.

The City of Tulsa allows ADUs in single-family residential neighborhoods by special exception. The city code states that they allow efficient use of the city’s existing housing stock and infrastructure, as well as a means for residents – especially the elderly, single parents and children without nests. – to stay in their homes and neighborhoods and obtain additional income, security, accompaniment and assistance.

A December report by the Urban Institute on the role of single-family housing production in addressing the affordable housing shortage recommends that all states allow ADUs on single-family lots as of right.

Only 1.6% of single-family homes today have an ADU, according to the report. Raising this figure to 3% over the next five years would create an additional 1.17 million affordable housing units.

“At the end of the day, issues of affordability and housing shortages are issues of municipal government,” said Chapman, a member of the Edmond City Council. “It will be up to city planning departments, planning commissions and city councils across the country to develop creative solutions to the problems.”

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