ADUs: A Common-Ground Solution to Meeting Bozeman’s Housing Needs
Updated: Jun 10, 2019
Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) can help meeting Bozeman’s housing needs. ADUs are a good solution in that they meet the “common-ground” test, help address the lower end of the housing affordability needs spectrum, and can be built in sensible places.
Strong Towns defines accessory dwelling units as “modest homes, often the size of a studio apartment, … found in the backyard of a larger house, attached to or above the garage, or attached to another home but with a separate entrance. [ADUs] are a wonderful way to make it possible for more people to live in in-demand neighborhoods without dramatically changing those neighborhoods' visual character.“ Accessory Dwelling Units are often referred to as “hidden density” by virtue of adding density to a neighborhood in a way that typically isn’t visible from the street.
Advantages of ADUs:
Common-Ground. ADUs are solution most people can agree on. In support of a broader goal of gradually increasing density in developed areas of town, most residents are okay with the idea of ADUs being built in their neighborhood.
Affordable. Whereas most new construction is targeted toward meeting the higher end of the housing market, ADUs are more affordable. ADUs are great for those who don’t need a lot of space. This may include grad students, young couples, single professionals, or the elderly. ADUs are (by definition) small—and small means affordable. According to Bozeman’s Housing Needs Assessment, 32% of Bozeman households are persons who live alone.
Location, location, location. ADUs are integrated into existing housing, providing a way to boost density in already developed areas, such as near the University or near Downtown.
How Do We Get More ADUs?
Seattle, like Bozeman, has serious housing affordability challenges. Seattle is enacting new laws for ADUs that make it considerably easier to new ADUs to get built (source). Aspects of Seattle’s plan that Bozeman should emulate include:
Eliminate parking requirements
Relax restrictions on size, height, and site layout
Allow two ADUs per lot (e.g. one attached unit, and one detached unit)
Can ADUs really make a viable dent our housing needs? Absolutely! 40% of Bozeman’s 23,000 housing units are single-family residences. Increasing the proportion of single-family lots with an accessory dwelling unit from 1% (today) to 10% over the next ten years would add 2200 housing units, meeting about 20% of our total need for new housing over the next decade. If this seems unrealistic, consider that 35% of single-family homes in Vancouver current have an ADU (source)
To be clear, ADUs are one piece of a broader housing needs puzzle. ADUs are not the only solution—they’re one of many. They’re a good solution because they meet the “common-ground” test, help address the lower end of the housing affordability needs spectrum, and can be built in sensible places.