Most ADU restrictions have been lifted – Now what?

The Anchorage Assembly unanimously lifted some of our most restrictive zoning limits on ADUs. Let’s build some housing!

Now that we’ve eliminated the owner-occupancy mandate, on-site parking requirements, and subordinate structure height restrictions, let’s get to work and shoehorn some new housing into our tight housing market.

Get familiar with Title 21

If you’re considering building an ADU or want to encourage friends and neighbors to build them, do yourself a favor and spend a few minutes looking over Anchorage’s zoning regulations, also known as Title 21. The city of Sacramento put together an online ADU Resource Center with some helpful information, much of which is universal. The Anchorage-specific ADU resource page should be updated soon.

Calling all Architects

The city of Sacramento has also developed sets of permit-ready ADU Plans that can be used by any resident. Applicants just need to show a site plan with the location of the ADU, and they’re ready to build. This is fantastic, the plans look efficient and cost-effective to build, but they’re a bit uninteresting.

I’d like to see Anchorage take it up a notch. We have some talented architects here, and with a coordinated effort, we could provide plans that are not only permit-ready but aesthetically pleasing and sustainable too.

Need some Inspiration?

If you have the means and are ready to build, or you’re just inspo lurking, Den Outdoors has sets of ADU and tiny house plans sure to please just about anyone – these on-trend, modern structures will be a handsome addition to any property. Dwell is offering a $389K pre-fab backyard house. The Dwell House’s impressive price tag includes everything from delivery and site prep to finishes, lighting, and appliances.

The Outpost by Den Outdoors
The Dwell House

These plans are likely out of the financial reach of the average homeowner, but they’re inspiring and offer a glimpse into what could be. Good design is attainable, and aesthetics should always be considered.

Is this going to lead to an onslaught of short-term rentals?

No, I don’t think it will, but there will undoubtedly be some new short-term rentals coming on the market in the form of ADUs. The critical thing to consider here is the law of supply and demand and location, location, location.

The most marketable short-term vacation rentals are always in a scenic location or somewhere close to the action. While it’s true that some ADUs are serving as vacation rentals in areas that need more housing, this is a symptom of a shortage of both. When more property owners living near downtown or along the bluffs of South Anchorage or Turnagain build ocean-view ADUs as vacation rentals, the backyard/garage units in Fairview, Airport Heights, and Rogers Park will appeal less to visitors.

Talk to your Neighbors

One of the biggest concerns I heard during public testimony, aside from insincere concerns over short-term rentals, was the worry that neighbors would build a sun-blocking monolith that would destroy the quality of life for anyone nearby.

Even the most egregious examples cited by the opponents of less restrictive ADU rules failed to strike me as anything that would hurt surrounding property values. I don’t think many people want to do something that makes their neighbors hate them. I’d encourage anyone considering building an ADU to talk to their neighbors relatively early in the process. This will allow any objections to be heard and negotiated and give them time to fit them into their long-term plans. Maybe they’ll consider planting some trees or hedges along the property line.