Homeowners in Crestview, Riverview, Hillcrest and other areas of Durango may soon be able to build accessory dwelling units as part of a city effort to increase affordable housing.
Durango City Council gave initial approval to amend the city’s Land Use and Development Code on Tuesday that will allow homeowners in zone districts EN-4, 5 and 6 to build additional housing up to 550 square feet attached to the main house.
Councilors must pass an ordinance on the amendment, and it must then be approved in two separate meetings.
Homeowners may not sell the addition or move out of the home, but they could rent that space, often called a “granny flat” or “in-law suite.”
“This is a good approach to addressing our lack of housing,” said Mayor pro tem Melissa Youssef.
This action is another step toward making Durango a more affordable place to live, said City Planner Mark Williams. The city needs to add between 185 and 260 homes annually to meet demand, according to the city housing plan.
This decision comes after another made in 2015 to allow residents to build accessory dwelling units in the east Animas City neighborhood.
This proposal, much like that one, is intended to help Durango overcome an “acute” affordable housing demand, staff wrote in a report to councilors.
“This ADU (accessory dwelling units) expansion is a way to provide more housing without expanding infrastructure, using city money or rezoning property for denser development,” according to the staff report.
It is the nature of ADUs – that the cost of creating more affordable housing is on residents, not the city – that makes it one the city sees as a first step toward making Durango more affordable. If officials add more affordable housing on the city’s dime, it could cost millions of dollars to fund the projects, build new roads and install new infrastructure, Williams said.
The city is trying to strike a balance between allowing more affordable housing and keeping the character of neighborhoods where ADUs will be allowed, he said. That balance was not hard to find when the city first approved ADUs, because there already were hundreds of them in the east Animas City, Williams said.
Michael Shave, a resident of Crestview neighborhood, said he opposes the proposal to allow ADUs in his neighborhood because he bought his home with the understanding that he was moving into a single-family neighborhood.
There are covenants in the neighborhood that bar homeowners from building ADUs, something Shave said the city should not supersede.
Amy Brand, who also lives in the Crestview area, has an ADU on her property, but it is illegal under current town codes to rent it.
“It doesn’t matter if you have an ADU or a couple rooms to rent, it gives somebody four walls and a home. How beautiful is that?” Brand said.