Greater Boston Considers Relaxing ADU Rules as Housing Shortage Deepens

Cities in the region want to increase flexibility for homeowners who want to build 'granny flats' on their property.

2 minute read

July 27, 2021, 8:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

1719 house in Salem, Massachusetts

AlexiusHoratius / House in Salem, Massachusetts

Accessory dwelling units, granny flats, in-law units—whatever you call them, the concept of building additional housing units on single-family lots has taken off across the country. Now cities in the Boston area, which have long restricted ADU construction, are "mulling so-called accessory dwelling units as one way to add housing without drastically altering the feel of neighborhoods," reports Andy Rosen. "A 2018 study by the free-market Pioneer Institute found that only 37 of 100 municipalities surrounding Boston allowed ADUs for rental to anyone other than a homeowner’s family or caregiver. And in many of those cities and towns, the rules were so strict that few people were building them."

"This spring, both Arlington and Salem passed measures to allow such units. Framingham and Barnstable, among others, are considering doing so, as well. Boston is expanding a similar 2019 program, and some candidates in the city’s mayor’s race are calling for even more permissive rules to encourage them." As Rosen writes, "[s]upporters say they are good tools to help older people and those on fixed incomes stay in their homes by converting unused space into income-producing property, while providing relatively low-cost rental stock."

The Boston program also aims to "bring unpermitted units into compliance and to ensure they meet safety standards." While "ADUs won’t come close to solving the region’s housing crunch on their own," more permissive zoning and "a thoughtful approach could house thousands of people across the region."

Sunday, July 11, 2021 in Boston Globe

Aerial view of homes on beach in Maui, Hawaii

Hawaii Passes First Legislation Regulating Short-Term Rentals Statewide

The new law will give counties the power to limit number or short-term rentals and convert existing short-term rental units back into long-term residential housing.

May 13, 2024 - USA Today

Entrance to a drive-through car wash at night with green 'Enter' sign.

Ohio Towns Move to Ban New Car Washes

City officials in northeast Ohio are putting limits on how many car wash facilities can open in their towns.

May 16, 2024 - News 5 Cleveland

Rail tracks on the left, rustic log-built train station painted reddish brown with a green metal roof and concrete platform on the right, evergreen forest and bright blue sky with fluffy white clouds in the background.

More Passenger Rail Coming to Montana

Planning is underway to restore a 45-year-defunct regional passenger rail line connecting southern Montana to Billings and Amtrak’s east-west Empire Builder line from Seattle to Chicago.

May 14, 2024 - 8KPAX

Aerial view of Oceanwide Plaza skyscrapers covered with graffiti tags.

LA’s Abandoned Towers Loom as a “$1.2 Billion Ruin of Global Capital”

Oceanwide Plaza, shuttered mid-construction after its developer filed for bankruptcy, has stood vacant on prime Los Angeles real estate since 2019.

27 minutes ago - The Architect's Newspaper

Close-up of back windshield of Waymo autonomous car.

NHTSA Launches Investigations Into Two More Self-Driving Automakers

The federal agency is responding to reports of crashes and erratic behavior from Waymo and Zoox vehicles.

1 hour ago - Smart Cities Dive

Texas Townhomes

Austin Reduces Minimum Lot Size

Smaller lot sizes for single-family homes can make construction more affordable and homeownership available to more households.

2 hours ago - The Texas Tribune

News from HUD User

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Call for Speakers

Mpact Transit + Community

New Updates on PD&R Edge

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.