Senate bill states that cities should look at accessory dwellings to increase affordable housing

PAMPLIN MEDIA FILE PHOTO - An accessory dwelling unit south of Mount Tabor is built on the property of the house next door. ADU ordinances are being tackled by cities all over Oregon as a way to deal with the affordable housing crisis.Woodburn City Council is considering an amendment to the city's development ordinance that would allow homeowners to build accessory housing, known as accessory dwelling units (ADUs,) as a result of a bill passed by the Oregon Legislature in 2017.

Senate Bill 1051 is intended to increase the amount of affordable housing available in Oregon. The bill requires local jurisdictions to modify their development codes to allow for ADUs in single-family zones, provide expedited reviews of affordable housing permits, and allow religious institutions to use their property to develop affordable housing.

In Oregon there are only 25 affordable homes available to rent per 100 low income households, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

Woodburn Community Development Director Chris Kerr said the amendment would have a generally positive impact on the city. Residents in Woodburn are already living in illegal ADUs or trailers and RVs.

"There's nothing I would like more than to have people come in who have illegal ADUs and make them legal, once we get some regulations on the book we can do that," Kerr said.

Prior to SB 1051, Woodburn had no code specifically dealing with ADUs, so they were illegal by default. The Senate bill set off a statewide scramble for cities and counties to craft ordinances that would set standards for what ADUs would look like and where they would be approved.

Woodburn's planning commission held a series of meetings to identify the problems that ADUs pose and how to best fit them into neighborhoods.

"What the planning commission did was focus on a couple of key questions: 'How do we make sure these aren't going to impact the exisiting character of communities,' 'What are the architectural requirements, height requirments, and how large will they be,'" Kerr said.

The proposed amendment would be in line with common definitions of ADUs established by other cities. ADUs are defined several ways: as conversions of a portion of a house such as an attic or garage, as an addition built onto the side of a house or as a detached building on the same property.

"It's easy for people to see these as mother-in-law apartments, space for extended family or people who need a little bit more care, you can have them live with you," Kerr said.

Mobile homes, recreational vehicles and residential trailers known as "tiny houses" are specifically excluded from the definition of an ADU.

"It would not make a trailer or RV legal housing — you can park those on your property, but people are not allowed to live out of those, they won't be permitted, " Kerr said.

Under the proposed amendment, the city would only allow one ADU per property. ADUs would be required to have the same architectural standards and "look" as the primary house, and be limited to the same height as the primary home.

ADUs would have the same setbacks from the property line as other detached structures, and would be limited to a floor area of 725 square feet or 50 percent of the primary home, whichever is less.

Staff also recommended that the service development charge for ADUs be less than a standard single family home to keep in line with the state's intention of increasing affordable housing.

The permitting process for ADUs is simple on the city's side, Kerr said. If ADUs meet the code requirements there is no additional process, and the permits will be approved at the same time as the building permit.

Property owners who want to build an ADU that won't meet some of the code requirements will have a chance to work with the planning commission to get a conditional use permit.

A concern that the City Council brought up during the council meeting Monday was ensuring that homeowners live on the same property as their ADUs. City Councilor Frank Lonergan said he was bothered by the prospect of having two rentals one one property.

"My concern is maintaining the integrity of a neighborhood, and having two rentals on one property, I'm against it," Lonergan said.

Rental of ADUs will be allowed as it is a key component of creating more affordable housing, but when ADUs become short-term rentals advertised online, it defeats that purpose. One way to reduce the short-term rental problem is to require homeowners to live on the property.

Preventing properties from being entirely rented out through vacation rental websites like Airbnb or VRBO has become a common dilemma in the metro area and statewide.

"Right now it's an enforcement nightmare," Kerr told the council.

In Woodburn there are only about a dozen rooms or homes currently listed on Airbnb. Most are private rooms renting for around $60 to $80 per night, but there is at least one listing for an entire apartment, rented at $300 per night.

Short-term rentals pose a problem for neighborhoods by bringing in a stream of visiting strangers, and a problem for cities by avoiding the transient occupancy taxes (TOTs) that cities levy on hotels and bed and breakfasts.

Woodburn does not prohibit short-term rentals, and recent state legislation created a framework for cities to collect TOTs from them. Woodburn is currently looking into the ordinance amendments necessary to begin collecting the transient tax, according to Assistant City Administrator Jim Row.

The council asked staff to bring back more information about rentals and requiring homeowners to live on the property. Another public hearing of the amendment is expected in August.

Patrick Evans



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