Accessory Dwelling Units, Affordable?

Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU) have been a hot topic of late. These units, mother-in- law apartments, are appealing to existing homeowners and have been suggested as a solution to affordable housing.

The current code https://www.lehi-ut.gov/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/Chapter-26-Accessory-Uses.pdf covers the details and in my opinion is a reasonable limitation on ADUs. The code allows them where single family homes that are owner occupied, have a certain size and provide enough parking. There are some fees involved as any construction or remodeling require and then you have a new rentable unit.

A search on KSL shows six of these type units available ranging in price from $850 - $1450 a month. These prices track well with the market, for instance the Cresthaven luxury apartments above the outlets has rents from $1150-$1560.

If these ADUs are to work as affordable housing I'd expect the rents to reflect rates that work for residents making salaries on the lower end of the scale. Most experts recommend no more than 30% of your gross income to be used for housing. That one bedroom ADU at $850 would require a full-time job paying $17.50 an hour. It does not appear these units are substantially more affordable than the existing stock of rentals.

Further these units are by definition going to be in single family residential areas. These areas do not have any mass transit options so all family members in the ADU will have to have access to a car as well. These units have nothing more to offer the market other than more supply and the amount of them makes them rather insignificant.

Instead this seems like a great way for an existing homeowner to make their home more affordable by increasing their income while adding density where it was previously not allowed. We have plenty of demand for single family homes and being responsible and fiscally conservative one would not be in a single family home that is costing them too much. These units also do not help more families access to home ownership and the wealth it can help grow.

The people that need affordable housing are the people working the service jobs that pay minimum to low wages. These ADUs will not help them. Affordable housing near public transit or jobs is what they need, the housing itself could be apartments, condos, townhomes etc. but will need to be subsidized either privately or publicly. The market simply is too good for it to happen naturally at this point. If funds become available at the state or federal level I would support Lehi taking advantage of them to create affordable housing in Lehi.

We don't need sprawling complexes of apartments but instead pockets of affordable housing to not create a "ghetto". It has been found that integrating different income levels in the same neighborhood is a great way to help lift kids out of poverty. http://cityobservatory.org/why-mixed-income-neighborhoods-matter-lifting-kids-out-of-poverty/

While I am supportive of ADUs I don't support them as a solution in any way for affordable housing. The current code around them is a reasonable limitation on them. If affordable housing is important to Lehi residents we must find ways to integrate income levels in the existing or new neighborhoods. This will be a challenging discussion for some but if we truly value affordable housing it should be on the table. Lehi's mix of both low and high income earners needs a housing mix that reflects the jobs available in it.

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