Owners of single-family homes in many parts of Colorado would be allowed to build accessory dwelling units on their property under a recently introduced bill at the Legislature, the first of three pillar policies lawmakers hope to pass this year to partially address the state’s housing needs.
ADUs are smaller living spaces on the same lot as single-family homes, sometimes built as additions to the house or as separate structures entirely. Experts say they can address housing shortages by increasing density without requiring new infrastructure like water, sewer and roads. They are often used as a rental unit or housing option for relatives looking to downsize.
“We need an all-hands approach to tackle Colorado’s housing crisis, and that includes allowing homeowners to have Accessory Dwelling Units on their properties,” Rep. Judy Amabile, a Boulder Democrat, said in a statement. “ADUs are typically a more affordable option for renters, and they give homeowners the freedom to use their property to house a family member or earn some extra income. By allowing ADUs to be built and offering financing to lower- and middle-income Coloradans, we can make it easier for Coloradans to afford to stay in the communities where they live and work.”
The bill is sponsored by Amabile, Democratic Sens. Tony Exum of Colorado Springs and Kyle Mullica of Thornton and Republican Rep. Ron Weinberg of Loveland.
Last year’s land use bill faced opposition from organizations like the Colorado Municipal League, which argued the proposal unfairly overrode local governments’ control over zoning decisions. HB-1152 will likely face similar pushback.
The bill would mandate changes in Colorado cities with over 1,000 residents that fall within metropolitan planning organizations. That includes dozens of cities along the Front Range from Fort Collins to Pueblo and also Grand Junction. It omits most of rural Colorado and resort towns on the Western Slope.
Affected cities would need to allow an ADU between 500 and 800 square feet on the same property as a single-family home. Cities wouldn’t be allowed to require more parking tied to ADU construction, and the ADU would be approved or denied through an object administrative process that does not require a public hearing or decision by a public body.
We need an all-hands approach to tackle Colorado’s housing crisis, and that includes allowing homeowners to have Accessory Dwelling Units on their properties.
– State Rep. Judy Amabile
The bill would also make money available to spur ADU development and help homeowners with cost. One program would put aside $8 million to provide low-cost loans and down payment assistance for homeowners.
Another program would give $10 million to cities to develop pre-approved ADU plans, waive various fees for development and provide technical assistance, among other things. That money is meant to target development of ADUs that would be affordable, accessible or used as long-term rentals for local workforce.
The bill’s legislative declaration notes the impact ADUs has had on California’s strained housing supply. Since that state implemented similar reforms to allow ADU construction on single-family lots, the number of ADUs permitted grew from 1,000 in 2016 to 24,000 in 2022.
The ADU bill is one of three priority housing bills lawmakers will consider this year. The two other bills will mandate local housing needs assessments and incentivize housing density near transit.
Democrats enjoy large majorities in both chambers. The Legislature runs through early May.
This story first appeared at Colorado Newsline. Colorado Newsline is part of States Newsroom, a national nonprofit news organization. Colorado Newsline is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, independent source of online news.