In an effort to create more affordable housing options, the Phoenix City Council approved the legalization of accessory dwelling units (ADUs) in residential districts Wednesday afternoon in an 8-1 vote during its formal meeting at 200 W. Jefferson St.
ADUs, known as casitas or in-law suites, are usually located on the same property as a primary single-family dwelling unit.
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Proposals to legalize ADUs circulated in the 15 planning villages of the City of Phoenix during the summer of 2023 before moving to the city council.
The idea of legalizing ADUs officially began in 2020 when the city council approved the Housing Phoenix Plan which strived to establish 50,000 affordable homes by 2030.
The housing plan included nine policy initiatives. The legalization of ADUs focused on policy Initiative 2 which examined how to create more affordable housing options for Phoenix residents.
The need for affordable housing was what several council members cited as their principal reason for supporting the amendment.
Councilmembers Debra Stark of District 3 and Laura Pastor of District 4 were involved with the development of the amendment, and both firmly supported the amendment and expressed the importance of affordable housing during the city council meeting.
“We really want to get at the issue of providing affordable housing,” Councilmember Stark said. “Then, I think we need to make our ADUs affordable.”
Some Phoenix residents who testified at the meeting expressed that ADUs have helped them find an affordable home.
District 7 resident Emilio Avila Solís had lived in an ADU in 2003 and expressed the importance of that affordable housing option to his family in his public comment.
“My parents were in their early 20s, new to our country, without being able to speak the language here, English, the ADUs made it possible for my parents to save money to eventually afford buying a house out here,” Solís said. “ADUs give young families and the elderly the ability to live affordably to save money if they choose.”
The amendment gained a lot of support from the council members and public comment.
However, the biggest concern offered by the councilmembers and the public was about the risk of ADUs becoming short-term rental properties.
Councilmember Jim Waring of District 2, who was the sole vote against the amendment, was concerned about how ADUs can contribute to short-term rentals, the disruptive harm they could cause neighborhoods and the lack of policing for that issue.
“I don’t want to be a wet blanket,” Councilmember Waring said. “But we obviously have a short-term rental issue now and part of the issue is we don’t have an army of police officers, neighborhood services or anything else to go address the issues as they pop up.”
To address concerns about short-term rentals and ADUs, The Planning and Development Department updated a subsection of the amendment that will prohibit using an ADU permit as a short-term rental.
The amendment to the Phoenix Zoning Ordinance also sets the regulations for ADUs in Phoenix.
ADUs are restricted to 75% of the original building size or a maximum of 1000 square feet for a property lot of 10,000 square feet. The height of these structures must not exceed 15 ft or the height of a primary dwelling unit.
The amendment was thoroughly revised between the time it was written to when it was approved. The original draft referred to ADUs as “guesthouses” which was deemed by The Planning and Development Office as an inappropriate definition.
The Planning and Development Department confirmed that they are currently working on a checklist to help the ADU permit requirements and process be clear for all Phoenix residents who wish to explore this newly available living structure.