ADUS are be­com­ing A-OK in this area

En­gle­wood is the lat­est Front Range com­mu­nity to see the af­ford­able value of ac­ces­sory dwelling units.

The Denver Post - - DENVER & THE WEST - By John Aguilar

With the cost of hous­ing still on an in­ex­orable rise in the metro area, En­gle­wood ar­chi­tect Ran­dal Friesen sees ac­ces­sory dwelling units as a key to solv­ing the area’s af­ford­able hous­ing puzzle.

The only prob­lem is that new ADUS — think “granny flats” or “gar­den cot­tages” that are of­ten used to house an ag­ing par­ent or a child not quite ready to fly the nest — weren’t al­lowed in En­gle­wood.

Un­til now.

On Mon­day, the City Coun­cil nar­rowly ap­proved an or­di­nance al­low­ing ADUS to be es­tab­lished in more than half of En­gle­wood’s res­i­den­tial zoned ar­eas. The sub­urb of 35,000 fol­lows in the foot­steps of sev­eral metro-area com­mu­ni­ties that have loos­ened rules on ac­ces­sory dwelling units, in­clud­ing Den­ver, Ar­vada and Golden.

En­gle­wood’s vote is good news for Friesen, whose adult daugh­ter can now live in a small al­ley house on a lot he owns in the city, just a few feet from a full-size home he would build there.

“Af­ford­able liv­ing is what’s not avail­able out there,” he said. “My daugh­ter can’t af­ford apart­ments at the rates apart­ments are rent­ing for.”

The lat­est S&P Corelogic Case-shiller sur­vey pegged Den­ver’s home price in­crease at nearly 7 per­cent from late 2017 through late 2018. In an Apart­ment List re­port re­leased last sum­mer, me­dian rents in Den­ver clocked in at $1,050 for a one-bed­room unit and $1,330 for a twobed­room unit.

In the sub­urbs, the rates were higher: En­gle­wood’s me­dian rent was $1,220 for a one-bed­room apart­ment and $1,540 a month for two. Two bed­rooms in Parker and Thorn­ton had me­di­ans above $1,800.

But ADUS are not the an­swer for a num­ber of En­gle­wood res­i­dents, who fear the in­fill units will in­vite con­ges­tion, gen­er­ate park­ing headaches and fun­da­men­tally change the na­ture of neigh­bor­hoods in this in­ner sub­urb. While ADUS are of­ten used to put a roof over the head of a rel­a­tive or friend, in En­gle­wood they will be able to be rented on the open mar­ket as well.

Rent­ing to strangers, op­po­nents ar­gue, brings to the neigh­bor­hood a greater risk of crime.

“We’re al­ready hav­ing trou­ble, and they’re try­ing to bring more den­sity to our res­i­den­tial ar­eas,” said Cyn­thia Sear­foss, a 22-year res­i­dent of En­gle­wood. “It’s go­ing to be im­pact­ful.”

Those ar­gu­ments played out at last Mon­day’s coun­cil meet­ing, where both those tout­ing and lam­bast­ing ADUS took to the mi­cro­phone to per­suade their elected lead­ers to vote their way. In the end, the or­di­nance passed on a 4-3 vote. The mea­sure takes ef­fect Feb. 9.

John Vo­bo­ril, a plan­ner with En­gle­wood, said the city has been deal­ing with the ADU is­sue for nearly five years, hold­ing mul­ti­ple open houses and coun­cil study ses­sions de­signed to nail down the de­tails be­fore reg­u­la­tions were passed.

The new or­di­nance man­dates that the owner of the pri­mary res­i­dence on the prop­erty where an ac­ces­sory dwelling unit is built live there for at least nine months of the year. It lim­its the size of an ADU — be it a unit built on top of a de­tached garage or a cot­tage placed in the back­yard — to 650 square feet. The lo­ca­tion of the unit is also re­stricted to the rear third of the lot.

The rules stip­u­late that an off­street park­ing space be pro­vided for each ADU.

“We’re go­ing to have the strong­est ADU en­force­ment mech­a­nism for ADUS in the state of Colorado,” Vo­bo­ril said.

Not that En­gle­wood is a com­plete stranger to the con­cept.

Be­cause the units were pop­u­lar across the coun­try be­fore World War II in re­sponse to a hous­ing short­age, the city says nearly 200 ADUS al­ready ex­ist in the older part of En­gle­wood and are grand­fa­thered in.

Vo­bo­ril said the city is pro­ject­ing that six to seven new ADUS a year will come on­line in the city over the next decade.

Nearby Ar­vada in­vited ADUS back in 2007, and city spokes­woman Al­li­son Trem­bly said there are now 20 per­mit­ted units in the city, in­clud­ing base­ment con­ver­sions.

Trem­bly said Ar­vada’s ADU stock is evenly split be­tween use as a home for a fam­ily mem­ber and a rental.

The city’s in­tent with ADUS, she said, is to of­fer “a mar­ket­based hous­ing op­tion that would al­low prop­erty own­ers to rein­vest in their prop­erty and pro­vide a more af­ford­able op­tion for other peo­ple such as se­niors and young adults while also pro­tect­ing the char­ac­ter of ex­ist­ing neigh­bor­hoods.”

As to whether an­other 60 to 70 ac­ces­sory dwelling units in En­gle­wood by 2029 will put much of a dent in the af­ford­able hous­ing crunch be­ing ex­pe­ri­enced in the state, where it’s es­ti­mated that there was a deficit of nearly 128,000 af­ford­able units last year, that is an open ques­tion.

Re­nee Martinez-stone, di­rec­tor of the West Den­ver Re­nais­sance Col­lab­o­ra­tive, said ADUS should be a part of any af­ford­able hous­ing strat­egy, but they are not the com­plete so­lu­tion.

Her or­ga­ni­za­tion is in the midst of a two-year pi­lot pro­gram that gives low- and mid­dle-in­come house­holds in southwest Den­ver neigh­bor­hoods ac­cess to loans to build ADUS, for which the city es­tab­lished a reg­u­la­tory frame­work in2010.

Martinez-stone’s goal is to get 10 back­yard homes into the pipeline by this sum­mer, with a fiveyear goal of 250 ADUS.

De­spite their smaller size, ADUS are ex­pen­sive to per­mit, build and hook up, she said. A gar­den cot­tage in Den­ver can run from $95,000 to $150,000, de­pend­ing on size. A unit over a garage is even more.

But she praised En­gle­wood for even mak­ing ADUS an op­tion, some­thing many other com­mu­ni­ties have not yet done.

“If you’re not zoned for an ADU, you’re never go­ing to get it,” Martinez-stone said.

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