The Montgomery County Council voted unanimously to adopt the Zoning Text Amendment yesterday; removing significant barriers for homeowners who seek to build Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) on their properties. The Zoning Text Amendment (ZTA 19-01) was sponsored by Councilmember Hans Riemer, who chairs the Council’s Planning, Housing and Economic Development Committee.
“The high cost of housing in Montgomery County is pricing people out,” said Councilmember Riemer. “This important change allows homeowners to build housing that works for their families, and to create better options for renters in communities across Montgomery County. I am grateful for the careful deliberation of my colleagues and their unanimous support, as well as the strong advocacy of the smart growth community – working together we got it done.”
An ADU is a second, separate living unit on a lot zoned for single unit development. ADUs can be built by converting a basement into an apartment, adding an addition to an existing house, building an apartment over a garage, converting an existing shed or detached garage, or building a new backyard cottage. An ADU is distinguished from renting out part of a house because it is a totally separate living unit, with a separate entrance, bathroom and kitchen.
ADUs are common solutions for families that have relatives or primary family members who want to live independently, but close by- such as grandparents or an adult child with disabilities. ADUs offer a more affordable option for people seeking to rent in many areas by increasing the supply of housing and reducing pressure on rents across the County.
The Zoning Text Amendment makes the following changes to the County’s zoning law covering ADUs:
- Removes the prohibition on detached ADUs in lots smaller than one acre. The size of the detached ADUs must be the smaller of 10 percent of the lot size, 50 percent of the footprint of the principal dwelling; or 1200 sq. ft. Existing rules limiting the construction of accessory structures apply, including height limits, maximum lot coverage requirements, and stormwater requirements. In addition, the greater side and rear setbacks currently required for detached ADUs remain.
- Removes the requirement for an additional parking space within one mile of Metro, Purple Line or MARC stations. Proposed ADUs require one off-street parking space in addition to the parking required for each detached house (typically two spaces). For areas outside of one mile, three off-street spaces are still required.
- Allows for the conversion of existing, legally built structures into ADUs, such as allowing basements to be built into ADUs
- Clarifies that other rental uses (such as Airbnb) on a property that includes an ADU are prohibited.
- Removes the prohibition on ADUs in new construction.
- Removes the distance requirement restricting ADUs from being built within 300 to 500 feet of an existing ADU.
- Removes minimum distance requirements for space between ADUs.
“Affordable housing continues to be a complex issue in Montgomery County,” said Councilmember Will Jawando. “It affects seniors who would like to downsize and remain in their community or near their family; young adults who were born and raised in the county but cannot afford to live here on their own; and families with adult disabled children who are able to live with limited independence. ADUs do not represent an ultimate solution but instead provide one more alternative in the challenge to make housing affordable for all Montgomery County residents.”