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ADUs are “Accessory Dwelling Units”, but are perhaps better known as Granny Flats. Minneapolis has allowed ADUs city-wide for 4 years and close to 100 ADUs have been built. In St. Paul, however, there has only been a single ADU built (as reported in the Star Tribune) since the city adopted the ordinance in late 2016. It’s important to note that Minneapolis and St. Paul took different approaches with their ordinances; mainly, St. Paul’s ordinance currently does not allow for ADUs city-wide. Rather, they are only allowed in a portion of land along part of the Green Line. In the beginning of 2018, however, the city opened the topic back up, initiating a zoning study in several St. Paul neighborhoods. The process has now reached the point where the City Council was scheduled to vote yesterday on whether to open the entire city to ADUs, but the vote was postponed for 2 weeks due to some outstanding questions on the topic, as reported in the Pioneer Press.  

One City Council Member reportedly supported delaying the vote in order to better understand how regulations on ADUs would flesh out with respect to short-term rentals (AirBnb, VRBO, etc) while another member is concerned about how to regulate ADUs after the property is sold. The Star Tribune recently reported on some city residents’ misgivings about allowing ADUs in all neighborhoods. The Summit Hill Association notified the City Council of their concerns prior to the scheduled vote, asking for more time to study the potential impacts on the area, citing the unique historical character of the homes along Summit Ave and concerns about increasing density. On the other side of things, proponents of ADUs see them as part of the puzzle solution for affordable housing shortages in the city. Furthermore, as baby boomers reach retirement and beyond, ADUs can provide comfortable, affordable and convenient living situations for family members – thus the name “Granny Flat”. Now, the vote’s 2 week delay likely isn’t enough time to get a full scope of potential impacts, but it’s something. 

The city currently requires the property owner to live in either the main home or ADU, which is thought to help avoid investor-owned, ill-kept properties. That’s not to say that particular regulation will stand forever if the city truly finds ADUs to be a desirable avenue towards more affordable and high-density housing. We’ll give you the update in 2 weeks time.


Photo By McGhiever [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], from Wikimedia Commons