A new ten-year housing plan proposed by the Philadelphia City Council includes the possibility of implementing accessory dwelling units, allowing property owners to add more housing in their own backyard.
A shortage of affordable housing in Philadelphia as well as other large cities like Los Angeles and Seattle has increased the popularity of this idea, despite push back from some city governments and homeowners.
What are accessory dwelling units?
Accessory dwelling units (ADUs) are additional small living spaces, usually under 1,000 square feet, built on the same lot as an existing home. Proponents of such a zoning change say it would provide low-cost housing as well as extra income for homeowners struggling to keep up with high costs of living.
ADUs were common in the United States in the early twentieth century and offer a variety of benefits in communities where affordable housing is in short supply, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. One of these benefits is the ability to provide housing for someone who is elderly or has a disability that is close to their family.
As this blog has previously discussed, it is common for land owners to oppose zoning laws that limit what they can do with their property. There will undoubtedly be extensive discussion going forward of how allowing accessory dwelling units will effect Philadelphia neighborhoods. As it stands now, it seems the city government is simply open to the possibility.
The door is open, but Philly hasn’t quite walked through
In previous years, other Philadelphia City Council members fought against zoning code changes that would allow for accessory dwelling units. Even now, when the new zoning code contains language to enable them, there are no zoning districts in the city where ADUs are currently allowed. Concerns about density and neighborhood character are the most common arguments against ADUs.
As these proposed changes are discussed and developed, those who are involved in real estate in Philadelphia should keep watch. If the city’s zoning ordinances are modified to allow for accessory dwelling units, properties that are ripe for renovation or redevelopment could have even greater potential.