Ever dreamed of building a tiny house in your backyard? The City of Portland is trying to make it easier, for a while at least. I've just learned that the City is considering a resolution to temporarily suspend System Development Charges (SDCs) for the construction of Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs).
(Option House from the book Tiny Houses)What exactly is an ADU? An ADU is a second dwelling unit created on a lot with a house, sometimes a detached building or more often a basement apartment. Some folks call them "Mother-in-law" apartments. Seattleites seem to be calling them backyard cottages, which sounds much better to my ear. At this house near Alberta Street we designed the basement so that it could be easily converted to an ADU in the future with minimal upgrades.
SDCs are fees that the City collects whenever a new residence is built. The idea is that new occupants will create an added burden on the City's infrastructure — parks, sewer, roads, etc. — and someone has to pay for these services. For a typical backyard cottage in Portland, SDC fees will normally add between $7,000 and $12,000 to the cost of the project.
The City's reasoning for the reduction is that SDC fees are disproportionate to the cost of converting space to an ADU, and that encouraging more ADUs will help the City meet its goals for density and affordable housing. I tend to agree, but if they are sincere then I wonder why the City doesn't just reduce these fees permanently? In the long run, they'll easily make up for these fees through increased prperty tax revenue. In any case, these are fun little buildings and I hope this creates opportunities to design a few in the coming years.
Perhaps I'll finally get to incorporate a Jefferson stair on one of these projects:
I'm excited about this resolution – it could provide a great chance for Portland homeowners to build a sweet little studio apartment for a family member. I also like the idea of building a space for one's own use, but outfitting it with the potential of becoming an income property if needed in the future.