Want to build an ADU? In Raleigh it’s easier than ever

A new set of pre-approved designs released by the Raleigh City Council this week, it’s easier than ever for people to build secondary suites (ADUs) on their property.

ADUs, otherwise known as backyard cottages or grandma’s apartments, have long been the subject of debate in city council. Finally, after eight years of arguing over the issue, council members led by Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin ADUs approved in 2020in a 6-1 vote.

The new rules allow people to build ADUs that are attached to their home, detached, or above a garage. Now, a set of 11 pre-designed designs show owners what these ADUs could look like.

Designs include everything from energy-efficient tiny homes to accessible apartments with ramps and grab bars. There are compact cabins as small as 288 square feet and two-bedroom homes as large as 800 square feet.

The plans are the result of a national ADU design call that was sent out earlier this year, according to a press release. The city received 46 submissions that were “reviewed by a jury of local designers and industry experts” before authorities decided on the 11 designs released on Wednesday.

These detailed architectural plans already meet Raleigh’s building codes, making it much easier for people to get city permits to build them. They’re also offered at a discounted price, “well below the typical design cost,” the press release says.

After purchasing a design, owners must still submit a site plan to the city, which is reviewed for zoning, storm water, and other applicable development regulations. Permits will be issued after approval of plans and payment of fees, according to the website.

Why build an ADU?

Back when city council approved ADUs, members briefly discussed ways to get residents to build them. Baldwin argued that ADUs could help alleviate some of Raleigh’s housing problems, not only giving seniors a way to continue living in their neighborhood or near family, but also adding to the supply of housing. affordable apartments.

ADUs can be used traditionally, as accessible housing for aging homeowners (when renting out their primary residence), or as housing for people with disabilities or health issues. But ADUs can also be a valuable source of income for owners, in the form of long-term or short-term rentals.

According to the press release, ADUs often rent for less than other apartments in the same neighborhoods. They also “offer a more desirable type of housing for tenants who do not want to live in larger multi-family communities,” the statement said.

The biggest controversy raised in the ADU debate was over landlords potentially using them as AirBnBs or short-term vacation rentals. Over the objections of Councilor David Cox (who declined to run for re-election this year), the City Council allowed ADUs to be used for short-term rentals.

Baldwin says the city hasn’t experienced significant problems from AirBnBs like some cities, like Asheville, have. So far, the rentals have not reduced the supply of affordable housing and have not drawn many complaints from neighbors. In about four years (from 2015 to early 2020), the city handled just 55 complaints related to AirBnBs, according to Baldwin. Last year, after a new licensing program was put in place for short-term rentals, the city received only one complaint. So it looks like ADUs (and AirBnBs) will both be around for the foreseeable future.

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