Detached accessory dwelling units will apparently be allowed in Denver's new zoning code. The sustainability benefits are so numerous that ADU's tend to be the darling of city planning staffs nationwide.
The following article was written by Becky Alexis, a Platt Park architect involved in sensitive redevelopment.
"The carriage house has been a part of our built environment since the beginning of the twentieth century. Found everywhere in our community from Country Club homes to low income areas, the accessory dwelling unit has historically provided home owners needed flexibility for guests, expanded family, boarding and household help. Today our need for a sustainable housing sector is eased if home owners have the same opportunity. By converting the rear zone of a property into the highest and best use, families, neighborhoods and municipalities benefit socially, economically and environmentally.
Giving home owners the opportunity to add functional value to their property helps all socio-economic levels. From the first time home buyer to the elderly, the added dwelling space helps all owner-occupants to stay in their home. Fabrication is less costly than conventional housing and uses include family living, child and elderly caregivers, workspace and rental income. This flexible space affords opportunity for families’ changing needs in a time where the risk of home loss is high. As a work space, the detached dwelling reduces costly commuting requirements. The building form adds security and beautification to the alley and creates intimate and properly scaled courtyards which require less water and maintenance needs. Simply, the carriage house aids in preserving single family living.
Keeping families in their home is critical for the stability of neighborhoods. Less housing turn-over means less speculator driven scrape-offs, and a preservation of the neighborhood character. The added benefit of a carriage house to a property increases the value of other homes in the area. The added activity also reduces crime, especially in the most vulnerable space, the alley. Conceived as 800-1200 s.f. apartments over a 2-3 bay garage, these units reduce existing and future off-street parking demand. Safety, secured property values, and an improved built environment make the neighborhood more livable and desirable for existing and new residents.
To the municipality, this non-obtrusive densification of our neighborhoods has numerous benefits. The existing utility infrastructure is currently under utilized, so adding more dwellings would be accommodated and would add a larger tax base to support the existing infrastructure. Families would not be financially forced into the suburbs. Children could stay at their schools. Commuting by vehicle would be minimized, and our local public transportation would be better utilized. Jobs would be created by the people that build these structures and by the folks that choose to work out of them. It is a win-win situation that reduces stress on families, reduces falling house prices, minimizes scrape-offs which fill our landfills, reduces water needs with more sensible backyards, and reduces our carbon footprint.
Denver’s own Peter Park, the City Planning Manager, has said, “When cities stop changing, they start dying.” This is a “Shovel-ready” opportunity for good design and correct context to fulfill real and perceived needs."
-Becky Alexis, HIVE Architecture, LLC