BOISE — Those with a mother-in-law suite on their property will now have an easier time renting out that space.

The Boise City Council unanimously approved changed regulations for mother-in-law suites, or accessory dwelling units, in Boise.

Previously, ADUs could only have one bedroom, could not exceed 600 square feet, were required to have one parking space and the owner was required to live on the property. Now, those units can have up to two bedrooms, cannot exceed 700 square feet and are only required to provide parking if there are two bedrooms. The owner is still required to reside on site for ADUs, according to the amended code.

“I think this is an important step forward … to have those opportunities a little bit easier, a little bit bigger with the opportunity to afford housing,” Boise Mayor Dave Bieter said prior to the council vote.

He noted that he built a room above his garage, but it wasn’t able to be classified as an accessory dwelling unit because there was not additional parking for it.

The changes are part of the city's affordable housing initiative Grow Our Housing. The plan seeks to address affordable housing and housing stock in Boise.

“I’ve long been a proponent of accessory dwelling units,” Councilwoman Holli Woodings said. “Essentially what we’re doing here is allowing two dwellings on one parcel.”

Woodings said it increases density and will help Boise address the housing crisis the city is facing. She added she always wanted to live in an ADU during college and hopes this will expand renting options around the city.

Woodings told the Idaho Press after the meeting that she thinks the next step is hearing what the community has to say.

“Now what else are we going to do in the future?” she said.

She has been looking at the model of Minneapolis, which eliminated single-family zoning. She noted that she’s not sure Boise is ready for such a drastic measure, but it’s something to look at. This would not mean disallowing single-family homes, rather expanding options for building on lots in residential areas.

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No one testified at the public hearing, which Bieter said indicated staff did a thorough job getting information out to the public.

Council Pro Tem Elaine Clegg said she also has long been a proponent of ADUs and is happy there will be more options.

“I’m happy to see it kind of take the next step,” Clegg said.

Clegg has never lived in an ADU, but her neighbor does. In her experience, it provides affordable housing for young families or single parents.

While some regulations were changed, Clegg said she is also pleased that the city is keeping the requirement that the owner resides on site.

Councilwoman Lisa Sánchez said it will also help eliminate discriminatory housing practices.

Sánchez said people of color often need to build relationships with landlords to gain their trust. An ADU with the owner living on the property helps encourage that relationship.

“You have to do work-arounds and let people get to know you as a person,” Sánchez said.

By easing regulations on ADUs, it can open the door to more opportunities for people to build those relationships.

“It kind of leads into what we want here in Boise,” she said.

Xavier Ward covers Ada County for The Idaho Press. You can follow him on Twitter at @XavierAWard.

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