As of May 2018, the cities of Portland and Seattle have taken significant steps towards legalizing ADUs (accessory dwelling units) which are “small secondary dwelling units inside, attached to, or in the rear yard of a single-family house.”

The city of Portland reached a major milestone in increasing affordable housing by permanently eliminating costly development fees for builders of ADUs or ‘granny flats.’ In 2010, the Portland City Council initially provided short-term fee waivers in an effort to increase the production of ADUs, which allowed builders to forego the financial barrier of development fees of $15,000 or more. The City Council recently voted to permanently offer that waiver, but it comes with one condition: all builders can’t use their ADUs as short-term rentals for 10 years if they want to avoid those hefty fees. The Portland Tribune notes that “if homeowners do rent them out via Airbnb or similar platforms during the ensuing decade, the SDC fees must be paid, along with a 50 percent penalty.”

The city of Seattle has been on a similar path with ongoing development of its ADU policies: Since October 2017, the Seattle City Council has been in a process of addressing proposed changes that would facilitate property owners to create ADUs and “increase the number and variety of housing choices in single-family zones.” This would include changing the Land Use Code that would “allow two ADUs on one lot, modify existing off-street parking and owner-occupancy requirements, change development standards that regulate the size and location of detached ADUs, and regulate the maximum size of single-family dwellings.” As of May 10, 2018, the Draft EIS (Environmental Impact Statement) which expounds upon the environmental impact of the proposed changes, has been issued to help the public and policy makers in deciding how to move forward with the proposal. The Accessory Dwelling Units EIS timeline projects that a final vote will probably take place in Fall 2018.

Portland and Seattle’s efforts to incorporate ADUs as a part of their housing strategy show great promise for the future of affordable housing and incremental reduction of their carbon footprints.  ADUs don’t have the same requirements of new builds like “new road, utility and other infrastructure,” with their use of existing residential lots, and allow for greater access to in-city living which directly translates to shorter commutes.

That, coupled with Living Vehicle’s sustainable design which include using naturally occurring, recyclable and locally sourced building materials, and providing a robust solar package that facilitates renewable energy consumption, is a great formula that any user or homeowner can adopt to personally improve their own wellbeing and the health of their environment. Keep an eye out for Living Vehicles near you: you just might spot one in your next-door neighbor’s backyard!