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Nearly every house in Wilmington could be allowed an ADU starting in May

ADU Accessory Dwelling Unit types
City of Wilmington
An image from the draft LDC shows different styles of Accessory Dwelling Units.

The city of Wilmington is set to re-do its regulations around Accessory Dwelling Units in May. The new guidelines mean more housing availability with less disruption to the character of residential neighborhoods.

Accessory Dwelling Units can be backyard cottages, garage apartments, or simply subdividing an area of an existing home to become a separate apartment. They’re widely considered an unobtrusive way to add additional housing into existing single-family neighborhoods without dramatically impacting neighborhood character.

Wilmington Zoning Administrator Kathryn Thurston says the city is hoping to make them much, much easier to build, by allowing them on every residential lot in the city that doesn’t already have one.

“About 97.5% of all of our residential lots could be potential sites for ADUs,” she said, meaning more than 27,000 potential sites. Previously, about a third of the residential lots in Wilmington didn't permit ADUs because of parking requirements and other limitations.

There are still setback requirements and other regulations. For example, an ADU can’t take up more than half the amount of space of the existing primary structure, or be taller than it. But the new regulations do allow larger ADUs: up to 1200 square feet, compared to the previous limit of 900 square feet.

As for who is building these structures, Thurston says, “A lot of people use the example of these as mother-in-law suites… you know, parents who empty-nesters, and they'll move into the accessory dwelling unit, and then their children will raise their families in their family home.”

But, a lot of the existing ADUs are built by landlords who want to maximize their rental property.

The city does have a funding program that could be used to construct affordable housing in the form of an ADU: it’s an interest free loan up to $200,000. It’s called the Rental Rehabilitation Incentive Loan Program, and there’s an orientation for the program scheduled for Thursday, May 2.

That program can be used to rehabilitate any form of rental housing with the city's loan, so long as it's then rented at an affordable rate afterwards.

Kelly Kenoyer is an Oregonian transplant on the East Coast. She attended University of Oregon’s School of Journalism as an undergraduate, and later received a Master’s in Journalism from University of Missouri- Columbia. Contact her on Twitter @Kelly_Kenoyer or by email: KKenoyer@whqr.org.