HomeTop StoriesCould ADUs be Boise's answer to the housing crisis?

Could ADUs be Boise’s answer to the housing crisis?

The square footage of so-called mother-in-law units? Quite small. But interested in building and renting out these “associated homes”?

It seems to be growing day by day.

With home prices in the Boise area out of reach for many residents, officials have tried to be creative in ways to increase the density — and thus, they hope, affordability — of housing in the city. One such plan: Make it easier for homeowners to furnish or build smaller units on their property, such as a room above a garage or a separate home in the backyard.

So far in 2024, the city has seen a spike in requests to build these units, known as ADUs.

The city said it has received nearly 40 applications so far this year and is on track to receive 100 by the end of the year, up from last year’s total of 48. Interest in these units initially increased in 2021, with 82 applications – the most the city has received since 2000. Interest is greatest in the North End and Central Bench neighborhoods.

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This accessory dwelling unit (ADU) has a living area on the second floor above an external garage, is equipped with sanitary facilities, a bed and a small kitchen.  Boise has seen a spike in requests to build these types of units this year.

This accessory dwelling unit (ADU) has a living area on the second floor above an external garage, is equipped with sanitary facilities, a bed and a small kitchen. Boise has seen a spike in requests to build these types of units this year.

Crystal Rain, the planning and zoning manager for the city’s Planning and Development Services, told the City Council Tuesday that the “surge” in interest could be partly due to the passage of the city’s modern zoning code last year. The new zoning code made it easier to build ADUs by removing the requirement for owners to live on the property, increasing the size limit to 900 square feet and eliminating the requirements to add parking spaces for each unit.

Residents want “to be part of the solution” to the city’s housing crisis, Rain said.

To encourage the development of ADUs, city officials tried a pilot program in which it offered residents a financial incentive and technical assistance to build units on their property, in exchange for residents’ permission to rent those units at an affordable rate, or 80% of the annual costs. average income, for a maximum of 10 years.

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There was “no shortage of interest” in ADUs even before the city updated its zoning code, Brian Woodward, the chief operating officer of LEAP Housing Solutions, told the council.

But the pilot failed, said Kyle Patterson, the city’s director of innovation and performance. Ultimately, the financial incentives offered were not enough to offset high interest rates, rising construction costs, and the reluctance of some homeowners to charge low rents for such a long period of time.

Still, Patterson told the City Council that his office has “learned a lot” about the barriers to building these units from the dozens of homeowners who had expressed serious interest in participating — information that the city can incorporate into future policy changes to accommodate these types of housing. encourage. of development.

The city is also testing mobile “tiny houses,” which are usually 200 to 400 square feet in size but still have basic amenities such as a bed and a kitchen. That program will soon be expanded to include recreational vehicles, Patterson told council members.

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“The idea was that we need more housing that is affordable for people on a Boise budget,” Patterson previously told the Idaho Statesman. “The hope is that because these are very small houses, maybe they will be more affordable.”

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