Want to build a granny flat?
That type of dwelling, known more formally as a detached accessory dwelling unit, and other unconventional types of housing could become easier to build in Spokane if the city approves proposed changes to its residential development code.
The citys staff is revamping the residential code as part of a larger effort to bring the code in line with the comprehensive land-use plan, enacted early this year. The city says the proposed changes would be the first substantial update of the citys housing codes in almost half a century.
First and foremost, the code is being drafted in a way that there are more opportunities for residential uses, city planner Heather Trautman says. We are providing more options for housing than just single-family homes and multifamily dwellings.
The changes include a handful of provisions for whats referred to as alternative residential developments. Trautman says such options would allow for more variety in types of housing and more opportunities for affordable housing. Most of the new types of development would be allowed in residentially zoned areas citywide and generally would provide for higher densities in areas zoned for single-family housing.
These alternatives include:
Detached accessory dwelling units. Such dwellings sometimes are referred to as mother-in-law living quarters or granny flats and are characterized as small living units on the same lot as a larger house. In some instances, they can be stand-alone structures. In other instances, they can be above a garage.
Attached housing. These row houses would be allowed in all residential zones, although densities would range from a maximum of two attached units in a single-family housing zonewhich, in essence, is a duplexto an unlimited number of attached row houses in higher density zones.
Cottage housing. Such dwellings would be a series of small houses on a single lot or on individual small lots that share a common open space and parking. The city envisions cottage housing being built as infill development, which is development on vacant lots with buildings on surrounding lots.
Transition sites. The city would allow higher-density housing on residential lots located next to commercial- or industrial-zoned property to provide a buffer between a commercial area and a residential neighborhood.
Zero lot lines. With this provision, a developer could build a series of homes so that one side of each house is on the property line. Such houses wouldnt be attached to one another, but could share driveways.
Trautman says a couple of developments in the Spokane area include some of these concepts, but have had to go through a more extensive regulatory process.
For example, she says, Greenup Development Inc., of Spokane, recently received approval for a 57-lot planned-unit development, to be called Vista Ridge, on Spokanes North Side. Jim Greenup, president of Greenup Development, says that up to 15 of the homes there will have detached accessory dwelling units.
He says each of the accessory dwellings there, which he calls mother-in-law units, will include about 650 square feet of floor space and will be self-contained, with a kitchenette, a full bathroom, and a washer and dryer among its amenities. He says the units will be located behind and a short distance from the primary home on the lot.
The homes at Vista Ridge will be located on 80-by-110 foot lots and will be priced at between $250,000 and $1 million, Greenup says.
Greenup Development also plans to bring on line this year a 78-lot subdivision on the North Side where it has gained approval to develop some attached housing or zero lot-line housing, Greenup says. He says the homes in that subdivision will be priced at between $200,000 and $250,000.
Such alternative developments allow for a higher density in residential areas, which is one of the citys goals in changing the residential code.
Greenup says his developments are designed to integrate those features tastefully into the new subdivisions, and he hopes such alternatives arent used in a hodgepodge manner in established neighborhoods.
To accomplish what the city is trying to do, I do think theres some merit to that, Greenup says. The problem we run into is the quality of how its done. I dont know how you manage that through code.
Trautman says that in addition to looking for ways to increase housing densities, the city wants to allow for more housing options for small households of only one or two people.
She says the 2000 U.S. Census showed that in 34 percent of the households in the Spokane area, people lived alone, nearly twice as high as the 18 percent of households in which married adults with children lived.
The city held four neighborhood meetings this month to explain the proposed code changes to residents and to get feedback from them. Trautman says the city hopes to take the revised code to the Spokane Planning Commission this fall and after the commission acts, to submit the proposed changes to the Spokane City Council before the end of the year.
Trautman says the residential zoning proposal is the fifth phase in a seven-phase process to make city code consistent with the citys comprehensive plan. Already, the city has updated application procedures and its office and commercial zoning codes. Industrial codes also are being updated currently.
Once the residential changes are substantially completed, the city will look at changes to some special aspects of the codethose related to shoreline permits, for exampleand an update of engineering standards. Trautman says the city hopes to have the code completely updated early next year.
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