Mar 28, 2023 - News

Salt Lake's ADU reforms would require most owners to live onsite

Illustration of a magnifying glass with a key for the handle.

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

Salt Lake City is toying with the idea of making it easier for homeowners to add apartments in residential neighborhoods.

Why it matters: City planners hope accessory dwelling units (ADUs) — like mother-in-law suites and tiny backyard houses — will help relieve the housing shortage.

  • The limited inventory of apartments has driven up rents, making housing unaffordable for many residents.

Driving the news: The City Council is looking at allowing property owners to add apartments without prior approval from the Planning Commission, along with other rule changes that would:

  • permit larger detached ADUs;
  • allow ADUs on some commercial properties and apartment buildings;
  • and loosen parking requirements in some cases.

What we're watching: The city is debating whether owners could build ADUs on properties where they don't live, which is presently banned citywide.

  • One version of the proposal would remove the owner-occupancy requirement in some areas — a move some housing advocates say is necessary to make a meaningful dent in the apartment shortage.

By the numbers: In California, for example, lawmakers banned cities from requiring ADU owners to live on-site in 2019.

  • The number of ADUs built each year more than tripled from 2018 to 2021, with a rising share of permits going to units priced for moderate incomes or lower, according to data from California housing authorities.
  • In Seattle, ADU development also has more than tripled since the city removed its owner-occupancy requirement in 2019, with about 80% charging below the city's median rent, according to a report this month.

The other side: Proponents of the owner-occupancy requirement say it helps deter investment companies from buying up single-family homes and turning them into multi-family properties as absentee landlords.

  • In a council hearing last week, some residents complained those rentals could "degrade" neighborhoods.

What's next: The City Council is tentatively scheduled to vote on the new regulations at its April 4 meeting.

Erin's thought bubble: I've gotten lots of suggestions to rent out my Witch House, which unfortunately lacks plumbing, electricity or clearance for a human who stands taller than 5'5".


Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Salt Lake City.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Salt Lake City stories

No stories could be found

Salt Lake Citypostcard

Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Salt Lake City.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more