Apr 15, 2022 - News

Des Moines to consider 2-in-1 housing expansion

A photo of a Des Moines house.

There’s a studio on top of the garage on the right. It’s an example of an accessory home in Des Moines’ Sherman Hill neighborhood, where zoning has allowed the structures for years. Photo: Jason Clayworth/Axios

A significant number of single-family homeowners in Des Moines could construct additional homes or turn outbuildings like garages into guest houses under a zoning change that goes before the City Council Monday.

Why it matters: If approved, residential density would increase.

  • Affordable housing options would expand, and it could help those caring for seniors in multi-generational family settings, AARP Iowa state director Brad Anderson tells Axios.

Catch up fast: Accessory household units (AHUs) include alley flats and other dwellings that are attached or adjacent to a home.

  • City zoning limits AHUs to specific districts, which are generally located in higher density areas where multi-housing is allowed.

Details: Under the proposed change, AHUs would be allowed by-right in more districts, as well as at DSM homes within a quarter-mile of a transit route.

  • Site plans and permits would still be required but a rezoning and public hearing process wouldn't be necessary to build AHUs in the expanded areas, Jason Van Essen, a city planner, told the zoning commission last month.

The big picture: The AARP and other groups working to resolve housing issues have been advocating for AHUs across the country.

  • A Zillow survey in 26 U.S. metro areas, published this week, found broad support of accessory dwelling units.
  • New York considered an accessory dwelling unit plan this year, but scrapped it in February after concerns surfaced about the impact on local zoning.

Zoom in: The least-expensive AHUs in Des Moines tend to be garage conversions, which generally cost at least $50,000, according to a new city site.

  • At least one off-street parking space must be provided for each AHU. Homeowners must live in the property if an AHU is rented.

What's next: Monday's City Council meeting begins at 5pm.


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