This is an update on the City’s Zoning Code Commission work as of today with regards to Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs), potential features of the code that could greatly improve the quality of life for our city’s seniors. The primary reason for this email to ask people to take the Zoning Code Commission Survey and provide feedback in support of ADUs, because in order for ADUs to remain in the Zoning Code Recommendations, a large amount of people need to give positive feedback on the issue. If you are not familiar with this newly proposed “use” for the Zoning Code, see below “Background” section and then return to read this.

As mentioned below, ADUs provide older adults the opportunity to downsize without having to leave the community or go to an institution, and to live in the same building as caregivers. They also provide housing options to a variety of income levels and lifestyle needs, and they allow additional housing units to be created while preserving the character of existing neighborhoods. There are some challenges with ADUs that community members have voiced. These have to do with the difficulty of creating an ADU in a small Philadelphia row home, potential increased parking in the neighborhood, complexity in monitoring them, and the possibility that some homeowners would take advantage of this use to create a duplex. However, the Zoning Code Commission consultants have noted that in other cities that allow ADUs, they are not widely used and have created minimum impact. Additionally, Philadelphians are creating ADUs illegally, and some of those ADU’s could pose a significant safety risk when thinking about fire and other emergency scenarios. Writing them into the Zoning Code would define what it takes to create a safe unit.

Please complete the survey. It is important to note that you do not have to take the entire survey – you can just answer the ADU section – which should take less than 5 minutes. http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/zcc_districts_uses


Recommendations for Filling out the Survey

Below are the current recommendations, which you will see on the survey

Comments are in orange.

  1. The code will only allow Accessory Dwelling Units in single-family “detached” houses – Yet 75% of the homes in Philadelphia are row homes ie. “attached”
  1. Accessory Dwelling Units will only be allowed within the interior of a building – Yet many people would like the option to build the unit above a garage or as a cottage in a back yard
  1. Only one entrance to the detached house containing the accessory dwelling can be located on a side of the house that faces a street (unless more than one such entrance existed before the accessory dwelling was created) How would this work if the Accessory Dwelling Unit was in a row home?
  1. The accessory dwelling does not exceed 650 square feet – Would a percentage of the property be better? For example, in Portland, OR their ordinance states: Maximum size. The size of the accessory dwelling unit may be no more than 75 percent of the living area of the primary dwelling unit or 800 square feet, whichever is less. The measurements are based on what the square footage of the primary dwelling unit and accessory dwelling unit will be after the accessory dwelling unit is created.**
  1. At least one paved off-street parking space be provided for the Accessory Dwelling (in addition to the off-street parking required for the principal property) Yet many seniors do not drive – and even if they do drive, the majority of row homes do not have off street parking. In Portland, no additional parking is required for the accessory dwelling unit.

Background (To learn more about Zoning in Philadelphia see www.zoningmatters.org)

Accessory Dwelling Units are subordinate, additional, residences that are constructed within a residential property (often called “In-Law Apartments”). They are used for a variety of purposes. They provide older adults the opportunity to downsize without having to leave the community or go to an institution, and to live in the same building as caregivers. They also provide housing options to a variety of income levels and lifestyle needs, and they allow additional housing units to be created while preserving the character of existing neighborhoods.

173,000 Philadelphians age 60+ are home owners, and 74% of them wish to remain in their current homes for at least ten more years, yet mobility issues and financial difficulties will make this difficult. The growing trend towards multi-generational families living together (also characteristic of many ethnic groups) will also increase demand for these dwellings in the near future.*

Of the 173,000 Philadelphians age 60+ who are home owners, 25% report having some difficult with walking (27% report using a cane and 26% report using a railing) and another 46% report it is very difficult or somewhat difficult to cover their housing costs.

Older Philadelphians are increasingly likely to live in households of three or more persons. To some extent this reflects the poor economy, but it also reflects the growing diversity among the city’s seniors. Some ethnic groups prefer living in multi-generation households. Of all city households that include at least one senior 21% are made up of three or more people. Among older Asians in Philadelphia, 46% report living in households of three or more people.

*Data Comes from the 2008 PHMC Community Health Survey. All numbers are estimates.

Additional Reading:

AARP’s Report on Accessory Dwelling Units

http://www.aarp.org/research/legis-polit/legislation/aresearch-import-163-D17158.html

Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission’s ADU Recommendations – http://www.dvrpc.org/asp/pubs/publicationabstract.asp?pub_id=MIT012 – SEE ATTACHED

**Portland Oregon’s Ordinance – Ordinance: http://www.portlandonline.com/auditor/index.cfm?c=28197&a=53301

Kate Clark,M.P.A, June 16, 2010

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