How One Town Solved its ADU Regulation Challenges

Against opposition, the town of Durango, Colorado has successfully found a way to permit accessory dwelling units and legalize those that already existed under the radar.

May 24, 2019, 8:00 AM PDT

By Philip Rojc @PhilipRojc


Accessory Dwelling Unit

Nicolás Boullosa / Flickr

Accessory dwelling units (ADUs) can be "an instant source of affordable housing, if only they could be freed from extensive restrictions that cities and towns have in place that tightly limit who can live there," Anthony Flint writes.

In Colorado, the city of Durango overhauled its land use code from 2009 through 2013, making ADUs an acceptable form of housing. "The big problem, however, was what to do with existing ADUs," Flint says.

To tackle that, Durango launched a program of "ADU amnesty" requiring owners with (technically illegal) ADUs on their property to come forward, pay fees, and get registered. "Getting the transactional details on the record was basically a process of regularizing what was a robust informal economy."

Meanwhile, persistent local opposition emerged to the legalization of ADUs. Durango's planners "held firm," devising public education campaigns to placate resident concerns. "There may be no secret sauce for getting this done, but demonstrating the benefits—to owners, and to the community at large—is surely a centerpiece."

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