Whitefish ADU Ordinance Could Ease Housing Crunch

Recently approved revisions to the city’s accessory dwelling unit regulations prioritize long-term rentals to increase housing affordability for local renters.

July 6, 2022, 11:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

In May, the Whitefish, Montana city council took a step to address the city’s lack of affordable rental units, writes Nathan Dugan, President of Shelter Whitefish, in the Whitefish Pilot, in an opinion piece supporting the new regulations.

“On a 4-1 vote, the council passed a new accessory dwelling unit (ADU) ordinance that will serve to provide homes that meet the needs of many renters in Whitefish, including teachers, firefighters, bartenders, and many others who are struggling to find affordable housing options close to work, play, and social lives.” Starting on June 16, ADUs can be built in all zoning districts without requiring a conditional use permit (CUP).

“Additionally, the new ordinance re-legalizes the long-term rental of the ADU regardless of the owner’s residency. In a town that is already inundated with out-of-state investment and primary homes that sit vacant most of the year, this is an incredibly important step to unlock housing choices for renters close to our downtown core — where they can easily avoid becoming a part of the traffic problem on the way to work, play or school.” The ordinance additionally incentivizes renting to long-term residents. “In exchange for a minimum of five years of long-term renting via 12-month leases and no more than 30 days of vacancy between leases, a homeowner will be allowed to build an ADU up to 800 square feet without building an additional and expensive parking space, and will be eligible for financial incentives like impact fee reimbursement.”

The ordinance also eliminates the requirement that ADUs be located above a garage, a motion that Dugan supports. “These low-impact and modest buildings will continue to maintain the visual character of our neighborhoods while preserving the mixed-income “people character” that makes Whitefish the welcoming small town that we all love, and that many of us moved here to be a part of.”

Monday, July 4, 2022 in Whitefish Pilot

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