City of Tucson seeking public feedback on accessory dwelling units aka ‘casitas, granny flats’

Updated: Feb. 25, 2021 at 8:00 AM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - The city of Tucson is looking at the bigger picture by going smaller.

You may know them as casitas, granny flats and mother-in-law quarters. Current zoning laws don’t allow for them to be built, but that could change in the near future.

Back in November 2020, Mayor and Council directed Planning and Development Services to begin the process of amending the Unified Development code to define and permit Accessory Dwelling Units, identify the zones where they are appropriate and create development standards regulating unit size, height, minimum lot size, maximum lot coverage, setbacks, parking requirements and other relevant aspects in order to promote this affordable housing option in a manner that is compatible with existing neighborhoods.

Planning Administrator Koren Manning said the pandemic has only increased the need for these ADU’s.

“Right now with COVID-19, we’ve been hearing from a lot of families who want an elderly relative - or a relative that just needs more caregiving close by rather than at a nursing facility,” said Manning.

These homes under 1,000 square feet aim to help with a growing housing crisis by providing more low-cost options and also give homeowners a chance to create additional income.

“Over half of the renters in Tucson are housing cost burdens, which means they are spending more than 30% of their income on housing,” said Manning.

Rincon Heights resident Colby Henley sees the benefit of the addition in their backyard.

“I think they strike a really good balance because they provide housing and they provide some additional income. So it could help some homeowners stay in their homes,” said Henley.

But as the president of his neighborhood association, he’s heard many concerns about the small homes being used for student housing with the University of Arizona so close. The public comment period is allowing for them to voice things like this.

“We have a chance to kind of craft some language and have some control over that,” said Henley.

Others are concerned about the homes becoming short term rentals like AirBnb’s which could lead to parking congestion in their neighborhoods.

“We want to hear all those issues,” said Manning. “And work on what some of those solutions can be.”

Once public comment wraps up a final proposal could be on the Mayor and Councils’ desks in June.

Then, if approved, building could start in the summer. The city says changing the zoning laws is one piece of the puzzle and they’ll be looking for help in other areas.

“We’re looking for partnerships in our community to help people finance this accessory dwelling units.”

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