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In a sea of rising rent and housing prices across the metro area, Englewood residents may soon catch hold of a lifeline.
Accessory dwelling units — small residential spaces located behind a house or atop a garage — could make their way into the city, after Arvada, Golden, Jefferson County and Denver passed rules allowing them in recent years.
An open house on information about the units drew about 60 people at Englewood Civic Center June 13, where residents filled out surveys about their opinions on ADUs.
“Throughout the U.S., people are looking at whether it's appropriate or not,” John Brick, a member of Englewood's Planning and Zoning Commission, said at the event.
The units are nothing new — they were popular in the nation during the 1920s, `30s and `40s, but declined in the `50s, according to Englewood Citizen magazine, a city publication.
Englewood residents are already living in old ADUs — more than 180 exist in total, a city document said. In 1955, a new zoning law barred residence in structures other than the main housing on a lot, said Harold Stitt, Englewood senior planner. Even after that, a handful of people have still built ADUs, largely out of already-existing structures like garages — as was common before, Stitt said.
The current proposal is to allow for new ADUs to be built or converted from other structures, and the Englewood City Council could vote on it by the end of the year.
The city tags the idea as going “back to the future.”
“In the 1950s, after the suburban explosion, housing shortages were greatly abated, and (ADUs) fell out of favor in city codes all over the U.S.,” said John Voboril, a planner with the Englewood Community Development Department. Daryl Kinton, chair of Englewood's Planning and Zoning Commission, said he guesses that the units probably declined between the 1950s and `70s in Englewood. Affordable housing concerns in part spurred more need for ADUs, Brick said.
And the need is great. Through the first five months of the year, the median sales price of a single-family home in Englewood was $375,500, according to the Denver Metro Association of Realtors. That marks a 7.3 percent rise from the same time last year.
Meanwhile, condos and town homes in Englewood sold for a median price of $275,000 through May, representing a 17 percent increase from a year ago, the Realtor group reports.
The Englewood proposal would allow for rental, but not ownership, of ADUs — they would only be for sale as part of a whole property. The homes would be no larger than 650 square feet of gross floor area, a city document said.
Work on the proposal, which would allow ADUs mostly in areas close to Broadway and in some corners of the city — where most old ones stand now — started in 2014, Voboril said. He said the city has received about 12 calls a week regarding ADUs in the last year and a half.
“I'm in favor of the proposal,” said Britt Fuiks, a 24-year resident of Englewood who lives in a neighborhood with old ADUs. “I have a 20-year-old son, and he would undoubtedly benefit from this. And my parents, they're from out of town, baby boomers — it would be easy to care for them (in an ADU).”
The units are often called “granny flats” or “granny houses.”
From an investment standpoint, Jim Traynor, a Realtor with clients in Englewood, said the part of the proposal that requires the owner to live on the property is restrictive.
“It would be great if you bought a place and later, if you get married and move away, you could use that as a rental property,” said Traynor, one of a few critics at the event.
The proposal would require owners to live at least nine months a year either in the lot's main structure or in the ADU. Boulder, Arvada, Grand Junction and Denver have similar rules, according to an Englewood city document, a Boulder city document and media coverage.
“People are concerned with landlords that don't really care about the tenants or the property,” said Daryl Kinton, chair of the city's Planning and Zoning Commission. “We hope the requirement that the owners live there will prevent that.”
The proposal would allow two types of units: garden cottages, which are detached structures, and carriage houses, which can be above or attached to a detached garage or other detached structure on the lot, according to information provided at the event.
“Most of the people I've talked to are in favor, dozens ... all over metro Denver,” said Tari Ensign, owner of Ensign Design, a residential architecture company. “I haven't heard any against it (at this meeting) — I was kind of expecting some real resistance.”
Sarah and Jordan Lewis, a married and home-owning Englewood couple, wished the proposal included basements as eligible ADU space.
“It doesn't make sense that we could finish a basement for ourselves, but not to make money off of it,” Jordan Lewis said. “We think it's a great way to increase house value and offset living costs with another investment.”
He also said ADUs would yield “more people living here, more property tax (collected) and more people at local restaurants.”
“The benefits outweigh the cons,” Sarah Lewis said.
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