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Nov. 28, 2021

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Vancouver council mulls tiny home ordinance changes

City councilors discuss occupancy, parking requirements

By , Columbian Political Writer
Published:

City Councilor Ty Stober said Vancouver should take its cue of what not to do with accessory dwelling units from across the river.

“Portland has built barriers in place for residents to build those,” Stober said of ADUs at the council meeting Monday night. “I’m all for full liberalization of the laws.”

City councilors are in the midst of making some changes to the city’s tiny home ordinance.

The main goal of updating the ordinance, Councilor Alishia Topper pointed out, is to create more housing inventory to help ease the affordable housing crisis.

The impetus for taking on the granny flat ordinance is not because the policy is simply outdated, Topper said. Although it hasn’t been changed since 2004.

“We’re trying to achieve a specific goal and that is to build more affordable housing in our communities,” she said.

The two main points of discussion on Monday night were whether on-site parking should be required when building an ADU and whether the owner would need to live on the property for at least six months out of the year.

Both Topper and Stober said to make the building of ADUs the most effective, the on-site parking requirements and owner-occupancy rules should be voted down.

Mayor Tim Leavitt said he doesn’t believe the city will make changes to their ordinances and suddenly be overwhelmed by people interested in applying for an ADU permit.

“I just don’t believe we’re going to be overrun with the desire to create ADUs all over the city,” he said, adding he supports doing away with owner-occupancy and parking requirements.

But Councilor Jack Burkman questioned whether striking the requirement of an owner to live on the property for at least six months out of the year was wise. He wondered if without the rule private developers or businesses would buy up a lot of property, place ADUs on it and drive up the rental market. When Portland’s rental market became increasingly tighter, many people pointed to the short-term rental company Airbnb as one of the culprits.

“How do we stop that from happening?” Burkman asked the council.

Topper said Vancouver’s market is hot enough she doesn’t believe it would be likely for developers to gobble up the single-family homes, build an ADU and be able to turn a profit.

“I don’t believe it will happen,” she said.

City councilors are also considering some changes that include the size of the ADUs, what type of building setbacks should be applied and whether the design and appearance needs to be consistent with the main house.

Current city code dictates ADUs must be a minimum of 300 square feet but have a maximum size of 800 square feet or 40 percent of the main house, whichever is smaller.

Councilors are expected to hold a public hearing on the matter on July 10.

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