Salt Lake City would stop some Airbnb-style renting in mother-in-law apartments, but the dwellings would be OK citywide

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Salt Lake City is back with a new take on regulating accessory dwellings, with changes that would bar the smaller, secondary homes from being used as brief Airbnb-type rentals but permit the buildings anywhere in the city, with conditions in neighborhoods of predominantly single-family homes.

The City Council heard an outline of the revised proposal Tuesday and will have more discussion at its May 1 meeting. Ahead of eventual adoption, the city plans to seek more public input on the plan than it has previously, including through an informational website, updates by email and social media, citywide mailings, and direct outreach to neighborhood councils and community organizations.

“There are so many things on the list that I like and I don’t like,” Councilman James Rogers said of the proposed rules. “We’ve got to weed them out.”

The council came close to approving new rules in December but moved to take another look amid concerns that those rules might discriminate against minorities and the poor because they would bar accessory dwellings in certain residential neighborhoods that tend to be wealthier and whiter.

Accessory dwellings are small second homes built on lots with existing homes, either as standalone dwellings or attached to the main dwelling. They are seen by advocates as one way to address affordable housing shortages with fewer environmental impacts than other types of new construction.

But opponents worry that having more homes inevitably brings more cars and more people to neighborhoods that can’t absorb the impact, especially if homes are rented out to tourists and other visitors for short-term stays. They also fear the impact on privacy and inadequate enforcement of occupancy and use limits.

Objections are strongest in older residential east-side neighborhoods in The Avenues, on the benches and in the foothills. The latest proposal aims to mitigate those concerns and includes the following provisions:

• Allow accessory homes citywide, but with conditions in single-family neighborhoods, allowing neighbors to identify potential impacts during the planning approval process and ask for remedies. The requirement gives the city another way to take action against owners who violate conditions for approval. The homes would be permitted in neighborhoods already zoned to permit duplexes and other multifamily homes.

• Require a minimum of one on-site parking space but provide for waivers if parking is available right in front or if the property is within a quarter-mile of a transit or bus route.

• Strengthen the requirement that owners live on the premises, in either dwelling, and require owners to complete a registration to obtain certificates of occupancy.

• Eliminate minimum lot size requirements, but create new access and design standards governing dwelling size, height, entry and compatibility with existing structures.

City planning officials reviewing the new plan with the council presented estimates based on the experience with accessory dwellings in Portland, Ore., that suggest Salt Lake City could see between four and 27 accessory dwellings created each year among the city’s 42,000 single-family dwellings.

Council members were generally receptive to the new plan Tuesday, but they disagreed over a proposal from Councilman Charlie Luke to add an affordable-rent requirement to the accessory dwellings rules.

Luke proposed limiting accessory dwelling rents in some neighborhoods to make them affordable to those earning 50 percent of area median income. The requirement would not apply to dwellings occupied by a relative.

“This is something that we can directly tie to affordable housing that doesn’t cost the city money,” he said.

Other council members said they were not ready to consider Luke’s proposal, and they postponed a vote. Council Chairwoman Erin Mendenhall said the vote would be “premature.”

Correction: April 10, 6:30 p.m. • An earlier version of this story misstated the fact that a proposed income stipulation would not apply to relatives.

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