Tooele City can take a leadership role in helping local persons and families who are struggling to find a good, affordable place in which to live. While doing so, the City may also help strengthen family and neighborhood ties in a unique way.
As reported in last Thursday’s edition, the Tooele City Council is considering a proposal to allow accessory dwelling units to existing homes to help improve the area’s housing shortage.
According to the American Planning Association, an ADU is a smaller, independent residential dwelling located on the same lot as a stand alone single-family home. ADUs can be converted portions of existing homes, additions to new or existing homes, new stand-alone accessory structures or converted portions of existing stand-alone accessory structures.
ADUs are currently prohibited in Tooele City. But City Attorney Roger Baker has proposed an ordinance that would allow ADUs under City Code. At a work meeting on March 20, he told the City Council the state’s housing gap has become a focus for the Utah Legislature and for policy groups.
Statewide, 40,000 families are looking for housing, including apartments, he said, and most are young people who are the children of Utah families. As a result, the Legislature wants local cities to take more responsibility for attracting affordable and diversified housing.
The Salt Lake Chamber expressed a similar message to the Grantsville City Council last September. The City Council was told then that the state is 54,000 short in rentals, existing homes and new home construction across all markets, not just affordable housing. Driving that shortage is the state’s population and job growth.
Baker told the Tooele City Council on March 20 if a city’s regulatory climate is too restrictive, new housing, especially “creative housing,” won’t get built. Although the city does have a variety of affordable housing options, it can further help close the housing gap by allowing ADUs.
Baker said other benefits include allowing older couples to remain on their property, either in the ADU or primary residence. Allowing them to “age in place” and remain close to their social networks and groups can contribute to neighborhood health, he said.
Also, ADUs allow for citizens of all ages to become more part of existing communities instead of being forced into housing intended for their particular demographics, according to Baker. Meanwhile, pressure to build apartments or other multi-family housing is reduced, and greenspace can be spared from new development.
Those benefits sound appealing. Yet, there can be pratfalls with ADUs, such as not limiting size and location on existing properties, and failing to set aesthetic requirements to maintain visual integrity in neighborhoods. Without proper planning and enforcement, adjacent home or landowners could suffer property value losses. The proposed ordinance before the City Council addresses those concerns, however, in its current, early form.
According to the American Planning Association, cities and communities across the U.S. have or are implementing ADUs in appropriate ways to help provide more housing options for its citizens. Tooele City may be in a position to do the same and is encouraged to consider the possibilities ADUs offer.