As baby boomers are getting older, many are faced with the task of caring for their aging parents. One option some are exploring is creating an “apartment” for one or both parents by converting space in the garage or the basement. The creation of such accessory dwelling units (“ADUs”) is also an issue in mountain communities where affordable housing is scarce.
While ADUs may provide affordable housing, available rental units, or a place for an aging parent to live, they could also pose some potential challenges. ADUs may increase covenant violation issues or challenges in community associations, such as parking. Some have also argued that ADUs hold the potential of negatively impacting the character of single-family neighborhoods.
If your community association is considering ways to permit residents to utilize ADUs to assist aging family members, there are issues that must be considered. First, your association must determine whether the current governing documents of the association permit ADUs. Many declarations limit the use of a lot to a “single family residence.” The addition of an ADU, which might have its own kitchen and bathroom, whether it is attached to or separate from the main residence, may violate the limitation on “single-family residences.” Therefore, if ADUs are to be permitted, the declaration for the community may need to be amended.
Second, even if permitted by the declaration, the association and owners must be aware of what type of architectural approval is required for an owner to add an ADU. If the ADU will be an apartment wholly contained in the basement of the home, with no exterior modifications, no architectural approval may be required. However, if a second story is added to the garage to accommodate the ADU, architectural approval may well be necessary.
Finally, apart from the association issues, there is the matter of zoning. Depending on the zoning currently placed on the community, an ADU may not be permitted by the applicable city or county, even if the association’s governing documents would permit it. If a declaration amendment is necessary for your association to allow ADUs, the issue of zoning should be researched before the association spends valuable time and money on an amendment that may not be supported by the local zoning ordinances.
Following the lead of Grand Junction, Boulder and Fort Collins – On July 2, 2007, the City of Arvada passed an ordinance which went into effect on July 10th which permits ADUs subject to some restrictions. In a Q&A published on the proposed ordinance, the City noted that “Demographics are changing in Arvada and across the country. The number of single person households is on the rise, the average number of people living in a home is falling, and the baby-boomers are set to retire. ADUs can help provide more housing options in suburban communities by increasing the supply of affordable housing, providing extra income to elderly homeowners, supporting special family needs (such as caring for an elderly parent), and reducing urban sprawl.” The City further stated that “Based on the survey results of 47 cities with ADU ordinances, we can estimate that 1 ADU per 1,000 homes will be constructed each year. Since Arvada has about 34,000 single family homes, we can expect about 34 ADU permits per year. This is not a revolutionary change, but is one more tool to give Arvadans more housing choices.”