New state law could allow more opportunity for ‘accessory dwelling units’

EUGENE, Ore. — A new state law could be a boon to construction and offer more opportunities for property owners.

It requires cities and counties of a certain size to allow accessory dwelling units.

In basic terms, accessory units are additional, smaller homes on properties that already have a house.

Under the new law, several rural cities will be allowing these smaller units for the first time while major cities, like Eugene, which already has these codes in place, will look at loosening restrictions on them.

It’s supposed to add more housing across the state.

Architect and builder Todd Miller is a busy man, and he could soon be even busier.

“Business is flourishing right now,” he said. “I have more work than I can handle. I’m choosing my clients at this point.”

He builds homes and accessory dwelling units, sometimes called secondary dwelling units (ADUs or SDU’s for short) – basically backyard cottages in line with certain rules.

“The maximum they can be is 800 square feet,” explained City of Eugene principal planner Alissa Hensen. “They need to be smaller than the main house; they can’t be too tall.”

A new state law aims to make SDUs more common. It requires cities with more than 2,500 people to allow the units.

Cities that already allow them, like Eugene, are looking at loosening regulations so more people have the opportunity to build.

“They’re in need in our community and they’re a housing type that people desire,” said Hensen. “They’re great for singles. They’re great for aging in place, if you want to have your elderly parents come live with you.”

Not to mention, they’re affordable for renters and can help homeowners pay off their mortgage.

Miller says demand is through the roof: “I’m seeing it already in emails I’m getting from clients, from potential future clients. It’s already increasing.”

And it’s still early; the City is looking at making an initial decision on new regulations in May and the state law goes into effect in July, so Miller’s just looking ahead on what could soon be the biggest “tiny” trend in housing.

Hensen says the City is listening to the community on this one, to see what it is that residents would like to see in the updated code.

The next public hearing on the issue is April 16.

by Audrey Weil, KMTR News