Thursday, April 28, 2016

A paen to accessory dwelling units (ADU)

As households age, household sizes fall. And more and more homeowners are finding themselves in need of less house, and less yard. While it often serves as a 'nest' for 'boomarang' offspring (and their children), at some point, at some point the rental income from renting out a basement or an accessory dwelling unit becomes very attractive. Things like AirBnB only make this more tempting.

Even without permitting the construction of tiny houses as ADU's, you are going to get a lot of 'stealth duplexes' over time. They work out tolerable well while the owner is still resident*, but become problematic when the owner moves on, and an absentee landlord rents out both units (The problem is endemic in SLC). Regulations against this are difficult to enforce, as the change is often difficult to detect. 

Long term, you are going to have the problem with 'stealth duplexes' whether you permit tiny houses as ADU's or not. Permitting them means people will actually pull permits, which means better conformity to building code for what gets built. 

It also represents an opportunity for existing residents to 'age in place' without leaving the neighborhood. They could build a 'tiny house' ADU on a single story for an aged couple or widow/widower, and then rent out the main house for income. 

Discussing them with Mike Malloy at SLC, he said the biggest issue they had run into was sewerage--where the units had to have their own connection to the mains, or could 'count' as part of the original dwelling unit--something the article in Ogden also mentions. 

*Some places have elected to permit secondary units only where the owner is also resident. It does seem to help mitigate the problem. Violators (two tenants, absentee landlord) are legally vulnerable, which tends to cut down on problem tenants. 

Friday, December 4, 2015

TOD Fail

The land around the majority of light rail stations has been zoned for retail, in accordance with the theory of Transit Oriented Development. The unintended consequence has been that development near transit stations has been auto-oriented, with single story retail and large parking lots.
Attempting to implement TOD outside of the context of a controlled and designed mega-project is extremely problematic. TOD is a designer’s solution antidote to sprawl, and it requires the implementation of all project elements simultaneously, to form a coherent whole, to be successful.
For the majority of transit stations, using TOD as a planning and development paradigm is inappropriate. A city is not a building writ large, or a district a single development writ large. Outside of the context of an integrated district-scale redevelopment plan, with a single master developer (private or public), development around transit is not TOD, and should not be treated as such.
To meet the necessary threshold for walkable neighborhood retail, residential density near transit stations needs to rise substantially. In most areas, where existing residential development consists of single family detached housing, raising the average density requires the addition of very high density residential development. Thus, planners should both permit and incentivize the development of very high density (elevator apartments, minimally). In theory, the necessary population to meet the threshold to support neighborhood retail is services should be provided by adjacent high density residential. Lacking that, a TOD cannot support pedestrian scale retail.

The financial underpinnings for residential density are provided by rapid transit with good access to regional employment. Without the accessibility premium, there is no demand to support the residential density. That accessibility premium exists: a) in the context of severe traffic congestion (where transit provides a significant time advantage over the personal automobile) or b) high parking costs near workplaces, so that transit represents a significant financial advantage.