Salt Lake City’s effort to write new rules for accessory dwellings has consumed seven City Council briefings this year. Following the council’s move to table action on a hoped-for solution, there will be at least an eighth, and probably a ninth as well.
The council Tuesday sent the latest proposed rules back to the drawing board for reworking after a housing rights group cautioned that arbitrary boundaries in the proposal might discriminate against the poor.
Accessory dwellings are small second homes created on lots with existing single-family homes. Advocates say the smaller, less expensive homes can help ease housing shortages, have fewer environmental impacts, and help to stabilize neighborhoods. But opponents say they clog neighborhoods with more cars and more people, potentially including revolving-door visitors if the units are rented out Airbnb-style.
The city has been trying to amend 2012 rules that limited them to areas close to public transit lines.
An initial revision would have allowed them anywhere in the city. When that plan drew opposition from east-side neighborhoods to – The Avenues, Yalecrest and the East Bench – city planners proposed barring them in those neighborhoods initially while the city assessed how they worked elsewhere.
The council planned to adopt that measure Tuesday. On Monday, however, the Disability Law Center, which enforces fair housing rules in the state, wrote to council members with concerns about the boundary.
“We fear such a restriction will have a discriminatory and disparate impact on lower-income and minority residents,” a DLC lawyer wrote, citing HUD fair housing rules.
Council members Tuesday asked city planners to revisit and rewrite the ordinance and come back to them with a new proposal in the spring. The new plan will do away with any boundary and change the approval process for such dwellings to provide for hearings and public input on each proposed dwelling.
“A lot of people wanted the boundary and a lot of people didn’t,” Councilmember Derek Kitchen said. “This is just another example of us not getting it quite right with the boundary.”
Councilmember Stan Penfold, whose district includes The Avenues, said the council’s seven briefings on the matter “is an accurate symptom of an ordinance that really isn’t working.”
“I think this will produce a much better ordinance,” he said.