Accessory Dwelling Units Can Provide Good Quality of Life
Sisters in Dundee, Oregon contacted me because I’m a Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist, although they didn’t know what a C.A.P.S. designer normally does to improve the quality of life for residents.
I learned that one of the sisters was willing to dedicate a portion of her home’s property for a new accessory dwelling unit (ADU) for their parents. Their father has been living with Parkinson’s Disease for several years, and his wife can no longer take care of him in their San Diego home. They had explored alternatives and decided that building an ADU would be the best solution, but they didn’t know about anything that might be involved in getting the ADU built.
Timing is Everything!
Fortunately, the City of Dundee was in the process of creating land-use regulations for ADU’s. We hoped that this would speed the permit approval process. I attended Planning Commission and City Council meetings as an advocate for quality-of-life issues and accessibility for elderly and disabled people. If adopted, the regulations would limit the size of an ADU to a maximum of 800 square feet. I provided plans with documentation about the space required for wheelchair mobility and made a case for increasing the size of ADU’s to 900 square feet. The additional 100 square feet would allow the space for a guest bedroom.
There was also the issue of separation between existing homes and ADU’s. The concern of building and city officials was that most units would be used for rental, or for family. A good example of this is students who want a feeling of autonomy without paying exorbitant rental fees. City Council members were concerned that the parents’ ADU would have a full kitchen and we were requesting direct access from the existing home to the unit for convenience and emergency health issues. One of the council members asked if we would be willing to have adjacent exterior walls be special firewalls, with a covered breezeway between the home and the ADU. That suggestion was the key that unlocked the door for our ADU! I’d already planned a covered breezeway, so adding the required firewalls wouldn’t cause a problem.
The Lessons Learned
We proceeded with the plans and my clients engaged a structural engineer to prepare the framing details and required calculations for the new structure. The plans were approved and my clients hired a local contractor they found who prepared a detailed estimate. The sisters moved their parents to Dundee so their home in San Diego could be sold and the money could be used to fund the ADU. We are all hoping that their parents’ home will sell. The 897-square-foot ADU was scheduled for construction in 2019. The housing market in southern California had been in freefall since early 2018, and the family had to reduce the asking price three times. It lingered on the market for almost nine months. Unfortunately, this made moving ahead with the project unrealistic. The sisters and their parents made the difficult decision to rent an apartment in a senior center in Dundee.
Although this story didn’t end the way any of us wanted it to for the family, we all feel grateful for the opportunity to have a positive impact on accessory dwelling units that will be built in Yamhill County in the future. This experience verified that it’s worthwhile to fight for things you believe in. Members of the County Commission and the Planning Department learned about the importance of providing good quality of life for everyone. Hopefully, they’ll use what they learned to help other counties adopt humane regulations.
If you are considering an ADU or wondering how to create an accessory dwelling unit for family use or rental, I can help you. If you want to stay in your home and make it accessible, I can provide you with the information you need to make it livable and safe while maintaining the feel and look of your home. Call me today, so we can chat about your needs!
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