Salt Lake City Council to consider zoning changes for structures including ‘tiny houses’

Posted at 10:05 PM, Sep 17, 2017

SALT LAKE CITY -- The Salt Lake City Council is about to tackle issue of what homeowners can build on their property and who can live there.

Proponents say Salt Lake City is considering a change in zoning law that will finally bring affordable housing to the city. But opponents say the proposal will ruin housing in the city as we now know it.

Reed Rowland is helping his daughter build a tiny house. When the 288 square-foot home is completed it will have a kitchen, bathroom, bedroom and a wee bit of storage.

“This one will cost around $35,000,” Rowland said of the home.

He plans to put the home on a concrete slab in the backyard of his parent’s former home.

“The present real estate market is prohibitive for them to buy a house,” Rowland said. “It’s just too expensive, and this is a great alternative.”

However, this tiny home will be placed outside city limits because right now Salt Lake City only allows homes like this next to TRAX stations. They are called accessory dwelling units, or ADUs.

An ADU can be a detached building like a tiny house or an apartment above a garage, a building attached to the house, or even a mother-in-law apartment inside a home.

Homeowners would be required to live on the same property.

Proponents say ADUs will help homeowners and renters save money and reduce travel because they will be closer to where they work.

But not everyone wants their neighbor to have a tiny house in their backyard, and they want the city council to do everything possible to make sure it doesn`t happen.

“It will destroy the existing types of neighborhoods that many of us enjoy,” said Kim Peterson.

Peterson is leading the charge against ADUs.

“Our feeling is that there should be some areas, at least in Salt Lake, where you can still have single-family zoning and single-family neighborhoods,” he said.

Peterson says ADUs will create more traffic and noise, make it difficult for emergency and snow removal vehicles to get around, and drive down home prices.

“Even though a particular homeowner may not want to put an ADU on their property, it doesn't stop their neighbors from both sides or behind or all around them from doing the same thing,” Peterson said.

Rowland said he understands those concerns.

“As long as it’s not a slapped up shed, I think it could add to your real estate value,” he said.

But he believes strict zoning rules for ADUs would resolve many of the concerns about them.

“I think the controls have to be there,” he said. “The city needs to make sure they do it right.”

The proposed zoning change only allows 25 ADU permits each year.

The Salt Lake City Council will have its first public hearing on the proposed zoning change this Tuesday before making a final decision next month.