City to consider accessory dwelling units, cottages

Published on Wed, Jan 13, 2010 by Tara Nelson

Read More News

Blaine homeowners could have the ability to build accessory dwelling units (ADUs) on their property if a proposed code amendment is approved.

Community development director Michael Jones said the proposal comes after local group Salishan Neighborhood Association requested a building code amendment with the city.

Janet Pickard, president of the association, said giving homeowners the ability to build and rent cottages,
bungalows or accessory apartments on their land could help provide a supplemental income to keep those on a fixed income from losing their homes in a bad economy.

Jones added that many cities and states are now allowing such developments because it diversifies the housing stock and provides  affordable housing in areas where the median price is prohibitive for average wage earners.

In Santa Cruz, California, for example, the median price for a single-family home was $746,000 in 2006 – a price that only 6.9 percent of the population there could easily afford.

“Mother-in-law suites and garage apartments were really common back in the 1920s, people would have the house and the guest house,” Jones said. “It kind of went away after WWII but there’s really been a big push lately to get it back.”

Part of that push comes from demographic changes such as an aging population, more single people and adult children living at home longer, those people need something other than the traditional family unit.

“A lot of cities are pushing for these kinds of units because they provide flexibility in housing choices,” Jones said.
“Sometimes they are occupied by an adult child living at home, a parent, a grandparent, or a caretaker. In other situations, the property owner may choose to downsize and move into that space while renting their home. Many people argue an (ADU) can provide homeowners a way to supplement their income and defray the cost of home mortgages or provide a source of rental income.”

Pickard added that because the Salishan neighborhood already allows for apartments that are attached to the home or garage allowing detached units seemed like the next logical step.

“We already allow attached units, so to allow detached units makes good sense,” she said. “If we can fit them into the neighborhood in small cottages, it will preserve the look and feel of our old neighborhoods without having to go to multi-level apartments or duplexes.”

Jones added that while the proposal is still in the preliminary phase, it will likely include restrictions on size, site location and design.

The homeowners could also be required to provide adequate parking off the street for the new units.

A draft proposal will be considered by the  Blaine Planning Commission during their January 28 meeting. After it goes to the planning commission, it will be reviewed by Blaine City Council. At that time the public will have opportunity to comment.

“We would really like people to come out and give their opinions on this issue,” Jones said.