ADU issue more complex than suggested

Durango residents understand the accessory dwelling unit controversy. People in this community need multiple incomes in order to survive. The cost of buying a home has grown exponentially through the decades. Solutions appropriate to the current economic climate are necessary. Sharing property costs by renting an ADU creates housing options for people as the population grows. Professional landlords contribute extensively to the percentage of rental housing in Durango.

ADU owners might prefer to own larger homes, independent of rental income. However, access to this privilege is not afforded to everyone. Renting out an ADU to help pay a mortgage is a responsible, viable alternative, and research has shown that the economic and environmental advantages of smaller dwellings conserve community resources. According to a recent article in Fine Homebuilding magazine, “From a public-policy standpoint, ADU-friendly zoning regulations are attractive to local governments because they promote affordable housing without government funding, encourage dense development, reduce carbon emissions and stimulate local construction jobs.”

The housing shortage and ailing economy is forcing people to explore practical solutions to challenges. Current codes are written in terms of “single family” and “multifamily” dwellings. There are many living situations that do not reflect this antiquated point of view. Fewer people are getting married, having children and living in the same home for decades. Additionally, nontraditional families, step-families, single-parent families, as well as families with adult children and elderly parents returning home, have become more common. These are not lower-class residents, but people who deserve the right to create and maintain affordable, humane, legal living situations. An ADU on the property is a feasible solution.

There are compromises that would reflect a well-rounded viewpoint addressing the economic and social priorities of the community. ADU owners could bring their units up to code, create parking and pay into the system in terms of taxes, permits, etc., thereby contributing to the health of neighborhoods. In return, their ADUs should be legitimized, avoiding future ambiguity. This issue is more complex than telling renters get a living-wage paying job and to buy a condo.

Lorna Meaden


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