There’s another push for Lexington to re-legalize Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUS). Some examples of ADUs are basement apartments, apartments above garages, or even a standalone apartment, sometimes called a granny flat. Some may be surprised that ADUs aren’t legal, Lexington certainly has many different types throughout the city. That’s because for most of Lexington’s history they have been legal, only outlawed with the implementation of zoning. And there’s a reason people built them, they have many benefits and serve an important role in a city’s variety of housing choices. Here are some of their benefits, broken down by who benefits and how.
Benefits for Seniors
Lexington is expected to have something like 30,000 more seniors in the coming decades and much of our housing stock isn’t suitable for senior needs. The latest push for ADUs comes from the city’s own Senior Services Commission, understandably so, as seniors stand to greatly benefit.
Firstly, ADUs allow seniors to age in place. For many seniors, there are financial pressure that can strain a fixed income and force them to move. An ADU would allow them to have some extra income from renting either the ADU or the main house, all the while staying in their neighborhood. Others may have mobility issues that would require extensive renovations to their home to make it livable for them. They could instead build a more accessible ADU on their existing property, allowing them to increase their quality of life without any need to move. And for many more, they just have too much house than they need. Kids have long moved out and they don’t want to heat, cool, or clean all the extra space. Since most of our neighborhoods are rather collections of the same type of housing, this forces them to look elsewhere, but with an ADU they could downsize without the need to move away from their neighborhood.
In some cases seniors may need to be closer to family, but not “live in the same house”-close. ADUs solve this perfectly. The kids can build the grandparents a small cottage in the backyard or convert their garage. The grandparents get the security of having family close by while maintaining their independence and their kids have babysitters close at hand for the grandkids.
Benefits for Homeowners
The extra rental income isn’t just limited to seniors. Any homeowner with an underused garage or backyard could see about building an ADU to increase their income by renting it out. That extra income potential will also reflect in increasing their property values, like any substantial renovation.
Benefits for Renters
Renters also stand to benefit if ADUs are re-legalized. It opens up areas to live that would otherwise require purchasing a home. Whether it be a desirable school district or proximity to neighborhood amenities, ADUs allow more housing in existing areas. They are also typically more affordable than other standalone rental housing due to their smaller size. While they won’t push the needle of housing affordability on their own, they are a piece of the puzzle of a diverse variety of housing options that leads to better affordability city wide.
Benefits for Lexington
More importantly, the whole city of Lexington stands to benefit from ADUs. They increase housing affordability by not only adding more housing, but a different variety of housing, thereby relieving some pressure on other housing types. ADUs also allow for an increase in density without much affect on the surrounding neighborhood (so fewer “neighborhood character” complaints). Greater density has many benefits, but the most apparent is that it allows small businesses to thrive which makes a neighborhood more vibrant. Think coffee shops, corner stores, and the like.
The city made it clear that they don’t want to see the Urban Service Boundary expanded and council voted to preserve it. But our population is still growing and those people need a place to live. ADUs aren’t a panacea but they would be a step in the right direction to make Lexington a city where anyone and everyone is able to live.