In the unforgiving Denver metro housing market, an outside-the-box alternative has garnered attention in recent years across metro cities: the accessory dwelling unit. Defined as small structures …
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In the unforgiving Denver metro housing market, an outside-the-box alternative has garnered attention in recent years across metro cities: the accessory dwelling unit.
Defined as small structures behind a primary house or in a basement, attic space or above a garage, ADUs are commonly known as “granny flats” or “carriage houses.”
“Population growth in the metro area is driving the need for attainable housing and therefore housing diversity,” said Allison Wittern, spokeswoman for the City of Centennial. “ADUs could be considered a possible alternative that would create housing diversity in Centennial.”
The lengthy input-gathering process on the Centennial NEXT comprehensive plan — a blueprint that aims to set priorities for the city's development for the next two decades — showed support among citizens for ADUs. The city is expected to consider allowing them at a later date. To the city's knowledge, no ADUs exist within city limits, Wittern said.
But for now, the city council supported the strategy in the comprehensive plan of exploring the allowance for ADUs, according to Wittern. For one segment of surveys for input on the comprehensive plan, out of about 570 respondents, 42 percent were “extremely likely” to support ADUs in the city, and another 35 percent were “somewhat likely,” according to the plan. Centennial NEXT was approved by city council unanimously Nov. 5.
In another question, about 57 percent said if the city allows for ADUs, it should explore restricting short-term rentals, which involve the renting out of a housing unit for a short amount of time, such as a vacation. Websites like Airbnb and VRBO facilitate them, and they can be a source of additional income for homeowners, as can renting out ADUs.
The city effectively doesn't have a way of preventing residents from setting up short-term rentals, Wittern said.
“The city's home-based business regulations currently prohibit overnight accommodations. This has been interpreted to include short-term rentals (less than 30 days) operated as a business, bed and breakfasts, and boarding or rooming houses from residential zoning districts,” Wittern said.
But there's no way of preventing an owner from using Airbnb, VBRO or Craigslist to rent out a home or a part of it if the operation isn't classified as a home-based business, Wittern said.
“Further restrictions or limitations concerning short-term rentals would require action by city council and may be included in the policy discussion concerning ADUs at a later date,” Wittern said.
Gerry Cummins is president of CenCON, the Centennial Council of Neighborhoods, made up of homeowners' associations and other neighborhood groups. She served on the advisory committee for the comprehensive plan, and she said support for ADUs likely stems, from young people who need affordable housing, as well as from aging residents in the area.
“I think there's a curiosity about them,” Cummins said. “HOAs would have the final say so on whether that's even allowable in their own neighborhood.”
It's a matter of family for many people, said Derek Holcomb, Centennial's deputy director of community development.
“Based on the firsthand interactions that our city planners have had with people interested in ADUs, the overwhelming majority of requests relate to housing options for aging family members or adult children that are unable to live independently,” Holcomb said.
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