Boise City Hall

Boise City Hall, Friday, May 25, 2018.

BOISE — It could soon be easier than ever to build a mother-in-law suite on your property.

After substantial public input, Boise City Council will be voting this year to loosen restrictions on building accessory dwelling units alongside single-family homes in the hopes of providing more housing options to address the growing housing shortage.

The ordinance change council is considering would increase the maximum size allowed for the small structures from 600 to 700 square feet and would allow for a second bedroom so they could be used for small families. Another change on the table is the removal of a parking requirement for ADUs with only one bedroom, which is a change from current policy that requires a reserved parking space.

These changes come as part of the city’s Grow Our Housing plan to address affordability in the city to build housing stock and incentivize affordable developments. It includes proposed changes to the ADU ordinance, zoning alterations to allow slightly denser development in R-1C and R-2D zones and a $20 million public-private partnership to create an affordable housing land trust in Boise.

Initially city staff pitched removing entirely the parking requirement for ADUs and eliminating the requirement that the owner of the property where the structure is located also live there, but those changes were scrapped. In recent months, the city solicited feedback from neighborhood associations and individual residents through a Community Conversation focus group-style event and made the changes after hearing negative feedback.Residents were largely supportive of increasing the size and adding the option of a second bedroom, but 414 people out of the 560 who replied to the city’s recent survey were against removing the owner-occupied requirement.

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Council members were all in favor of the changes and hoped to have the public input process continue before the ordinance is finalized.

“I appreciate the type of public input you got put around framing exactly how to bring this forward,” Councilman TJ Thomson said. “I want to hear the public input that continues, but I fully support this as it looks right now.”

One lingering concern for council was the impact of the additional accessory dwelling units being rented on a short-term basis on websites like Airbnb, but Mayor Dave Bieter said because Idaho state law severely limits how much Boise can regulate them, he said there was not much that can be done.

“The state preempted us,” Bieter said. “I don’t want to raise the expectation or the hope that we could somehow address this, but it doesn’t appear that we can.”

Margaret Carmel covers the city of Boise. Follow her on Twitter @mlcarmel or reach her by phone at 757-705-8066.

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