Accessory Dwelling Units (“ADUs”) are typically accessories to an existing home. They are usually rentals, either an attached apartment to an existing house or a smaller, detached unit. However, Princeton, New Jersey has just passed one of the most progressive ADU ordinances in the New York metro area. This ordinance allows ADUs to be sold separately from their primary residence, as condominiums. Princeton is not alone; Connecticut also recently passed a law allowing ADUs in all single-family zones and a coalition in New York is building support to pass similar legislation. The thought behind this is to create more affordable housing in the area. ADUs can also help to generate income for seniors who are struggling to afford to stay in their homes.
ADUs are not a completely new idea. They were relatively common before World War II when they were more commonly known as granny flats or in-law apartments. However, post-war zoning, in favor of single-family homes, made it almost impossible to build ADUs. Now that policymakers have loosened zoning constraints, ADUs are now rising in popularity again in high-cost areas, such as, Seattle, Los Angeles, Texas, and Portland. In fact, for-sale real estate listings with ADUs have increased from 1.6% to 6.8% from 2000 to 2019.
Many in the tristate area have been in support of ADUs as a strategy for expanding housing options for seniors and young adults, especially in areas that would not be accessible to low-income households. This has partly come as a result of the COVID-19 Pandemic. The Pandemic has emphasized the need for safe and affordable housing.
Princeton's new ADU projects are seen as somewhat of an experiment. There are questions surrounding how well they will fit in the area. Many are concerned with how it will be possible to build two homes on a single lot and what this will do to the property value of each residence. Council members are already in talks about revisiting the terms of the ADU ordinance.
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By: Shayne Messing
Law Clerk, Moss & Tapia Law