ADUs (Accessory Dwelling Units), Housing, Zoning

Shelterforce ‘Under the Lens’: ADUs

Posted by Bonnie Limbird

I want to thank the PV Stop! group for sharing the article below. It is one of a 6-part Under the Lens closer look into ADUs called ADUs Explained. (There is also a short intro article and a short video above and beyond the 6 parts.) I read the whole series, but since the article below was the one shared, I’m going to just focus on it today.

Why ADUs Can’t Solve the Nation’s Housing Crisis

by Shelterforce

This article was offered without preamble or preface on the PV Stop! Facebook page, so I thought I’d read it through to find out what viable arguments were being made one way or the other.

Originating in 1975 with a goal of empowering people to make real change in their communities, Shelterforce, the publisher of this series, “is a nonprofit publication, published by the National Housing Institute…. not beholden to a particular program, theory, approach, or constituency.” They cover topics ranging from Arts to Zoning and everything in between as it relates to communities. They are a new resource for me, so I thank Stop! for bringing them to my attention. 😁

Well, I gotta tell ya, this article (and series) is…. GREAT! It says much of what we already know and offers additional research and resources to help PV in our discussion moving forward.

Here are my main takeaways from reading this piece:

  • Currently, wealthy white homeowners benefit most from ADU policies. (Go figure. 😏)
  • Short-term rentals are a problem that need to be dealt with on the front-end in any proposed ADU policy AS WELL AS existing single-family rental policy (or just the latter, in effect, covering both)
  • “if they already own a home, building an ADU is one of the only ways low- and median-income “house-rich, cash-poor” folks can increase personal wealth”
  • but, “Low- and medium-income homeowners who can’t afford to build an ADU and/or don’t have the knowledge to navigate the complicated design and permitting process are either priced out of building one or sometimes decide to sell their home in the face of changing neighborhood demographics and hard-to-ignore cash offers.”
  • “There’s a lot of education that needs to happen”
  • Low- and medium-income homeowners may not be able to build an ADU on their own. They may need additional resources, such as:
  • Many, many, many other communities, large AND small, have been modifying their zoning to allow ADUs (as far back as at least 2013), and PV can learn from their successes and failures.
  • ADUs “alone can’t solve the nation’s housing crisis”.
  • but… ADUs are a good tool to add to PV’s existing housing inventory with “gentle density” that most neighbors won’t even notice.
  • “you’ve got to do it at scale”. We need a regional approach to this issue. PV and smaller municipalities like us can only do so much individually. The heavy lifting will need to happen by the larger municipalities around us like Kansas City, Overland Park, Olathe, Lenexa, and Shawnee, and we should all coordinate our efforts. But PV has to do our part, no matter how small it may seem.

So that’s the gist of the article. It definitely supports continuing the housing discussion in Prairie Village and beyond.

I know headlines can be clickbait and don’t always match the tone of the actual article, and that can be confusing. Good media literacy skills are honed by reading the article in question, and then evaluating the source. In this case, Shelterforce is a member of The Institute for Nonprofit News (INN) Network which “strengthens and supports more than 400 independent news organizations in a new kind of news network: nonprofit, nonpartisan and dedicated to public service”, and that gives them 👍👍👍 (three thumbs up) in my estimation. (Thank you, Kelsey Ryan, for introducing me to this institute!)

That’s all for now. The agenda for next week’s Council meeting should drop in the next 24 hours or so, so I’ll get that out to you as soon as I can to prepare for that. 🙂

I’m a maybe for a brief visit to the Mayor’s Holiday Tree Lighting Thursday, so maybe I’ll see you there. (I was supposed to volunteer “passing the hat” at the event, but my health has nixed that.) If I don’t see you there, have a wonderful weekend and stay well! 🤗

Thank you,

More reading from Shelterforce just for fun:

NIMBYism is often driven, more or less openly, by racism and classism. But the concerns more commonly voiced are about increased crime, traffic congestion, strain on sewers, overcrowded schools, and lowered property values and “quality of life.” When developments are built, however, these fears rarely come to pass. Some examples:

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