As affordable housing continues to loom as a major issue in our area, making ADUs easier to build is a welcome rule change.
Bozeman commissioners approve loosened rules for ADUs By Nora Shelly Bozeman Daily Chronicle Staff Writer Nov 17, 2021
Bozeman city commissioners approved two code changes this week they hope will make it easier to build accessory dwelling units and alleviate housing supply pressure, but they are pushing the city to go further.Accessory dwelling units — sometimes garages or small additions converted into residences — are relatively few in Bozeman, with only a handful of applications coming into the city each year.
Though the units are allowed in all residential areas, the city’s codes pose a barrier to many looking to add one to a property. Commissioners this week approved removing the minimum parking requirements for ADUs and changing the standard that ground-floor accessory units have alley access to also allow a pedestrian connection to an adjacent sidewalk or road.
“By removing minimum parking requirements and changing the alley access standards, this amendment should open up a lot of properties throughout Bozeman to be able to construct ADUs,” city Associate Planner Jacob Miller said during Tuesday’s meeting. “I think these updates open up more properties than any other updates that we could make to ADU standards.”
Between five and 15 applications for ADUs are submitted to the city each year, City Manager Jeff Mihelich said during the meeting, a number City Commissioner Jennifer Madgic said is too low.Madgic and other commissioners noted that ADUs, which can be expensive to construct, aren’t a quick fix to the housing crisis. Madgic said her own property is perfectly set up to include an accessory unit, but the cost of building one puts it out of reach.
“It’s in reality a way to increase density and to make improvements, but it’s not going to fix our housing situation right now,” Madgic said.Though several commissioners and public commenters hailed the changes, saying that anything that can help the housing crisis is worth doing, commissioners also were frustrated that more code changes weren’t considered Tuesday night.
An audit of the city’s development codes released earlier this year suggested the two changes commissioners approved this week, but also went further, recommending Bozeman consider raising the occupancy limit on ADUs from two to four people and increasing the permitted size of a unit from 600 square feet to 800 square feet.
Commissioner Christopher Coburn questioned why those two suggestions were not included with the alley access and parking changes and urged city staff to move those proposals forward.
Mayor Cyndy Andrus said the commission gave strong direction to Mihelich to bring those changes back to the commission soon.
Coburn said the city should work to make accessory units a viable option for more people and families.
“I think that we definitely need to strengthen the availability and the likelihood that people are going to be able to not only build ADUs, (but) that people are going to want to live in them,” Coburn said.