An Investigation Of Community Policies And Attitudes .

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An Investigation of Community Policiesand Attitudes towards AccessoryDwelling Units in Greater BostonA thesis submitted byAlexandra P. LeveringIn partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree ofMaster of ArtsinUrban and Environmental Policy and PlanningTUFTS UNIVERSITYAugust 2017Adviser: Barbara ParmenterReader: Justin Hollander1

AbstractThis paper investigates community policy and attitudes of ADUs, byexploring how they are perceived, used and permitted in Greater Boston. Bycollecting and categorizing ADU legislation, and conducting interviews withplanning officials of nine selected towns, this paper examines three questions.How are ADUs regulated? Are ADUs being built and if so why, and what are thelocal opinions of MA Legislature Bill S.2311? Overall, this research found that morepermissive legislation should be passed, as ADUs are an important housing optionthat allows homeowners to adapt to their needs and family budget. In all ninetowns interviewed however few ADUs have been built. This seems to be thecombined result of economics, living preferences and aging infrastructure. Limitedimplementation also supports two further conclusions. First, that ADUs inMassachusetts today cannot be considered a meaningful affordable housingsolution, and second, they do not meaningfully increase density, changeneighborhood character or strain infrastructure as many residents fear.2

Table of ContentsAbstract . 2List of Figures . 4List of Tables . 4Chapter 1 - Introduction . 5Chapter 2 - Literature Review . 9Affordability Potential for Accessory Dwelling Units . 9ADUs and the rental market: Studies from the East Bay of San Francisco, CA andPortland, OR . 10ADU’s and Owner Affordability . 12Is the Market Blocked? Development Limitations . 13Community Attitudes of ADUs . 14This Thesis Research . 17Chapter 3 - Methods . 19ADU Data Collection . 20Categorizing ADU Bylaws by Town . 21ADU Geostatistical Analysis . 22Interviews . 23Chapter 4 - Results of ADU Bylaws and Categorization . 26ADU Bylaws by Town . 26Categorization . 28Chapter 5 - Results of Interviews . 30Reading. 30Stow . 33Newton . 36Lexington . 39Duxbury . 42Ipswich . 45Winchester . 47Wellesley . 50Medford . 52Chapter 6 - Discussion . 55Main Conclusions from Interviews . 55Limitations . 59Chapter 7 - Recommendations and Conclusions . 61Further Research and Action . 63Appendix A . 65. 66Bibliography . 693

List of FiguresFigure 1 The MAPC Region and its Subregions . 19Figure 2: Cluster and Outlier Map of ADU Bylaw Restrictions by Town . 22Figure 3: ADU Restriction Level by Town in the MAPC Region . 33Figure 4: Reading Level 3. 30Figure 5: Stow Level 3 . 33Figure 6: Newton Level 3 . 36Figure 7: Lexington Level 3 . 39Figure 8: Duxbury Level 2 . 42Figure 9: Ipswich Level 2 . 45Figure 10: Winchester Level 1 . 47Figure 11: Wellesley Level 1 . 50Figure 12: Medford Level 1 . 52List of TablesTable 1: Permitting Requirements of the 65 communities that allow ADUs . 26Table 2: Bylaw Restrictions of the 65 communities that permit ADUs by-right or by specialpermit . 27Table 3: ADU Data by Town. 564

Chapter 1 - IntroductionOver the past decade, Greater Boston has experienced significantpopulation and economic growth. The region’s economy has outperformed thenational average for the last nine years, and unemployment is at its lowest levelssince 2001 (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2016). These regional characteristics haveacted like a magnet, drawing many new residents to the area. Between 2010 and2014, Greater Boston grew by 67,000 households (Fitzgerald, 2015). Growthhowever has its challenges, and housing affordability is at the top of the region’slist. Between 2000 and 2014, the median price of a single-family home increasedby 52 percent, while homeowner income rose by only 34 percent. Growingpopulation, limited housing options and stagnant wages have resulted in 38percent of homeowners, and 51 percent of renters being cost burdened, meaningthey pay more than 30 percent of their income on housing (Bluestone et al, 2015).These trends, similar across many other cities in the United States, have createdan affordability housing crisis. To alleviate the crisis, more housing units need tobe created, and those that are developed should be built to reflect thepopulation’s changing housing preferences.Changing housing preferences are the result of two major populationtrends. Baby-boomers, now ranging in age from 51 to 70 years old, are reachingretirement and are becoming or are already empty-nesters. As a result, manyboomers are seeking new homes that are smaller than their current single-familydwellings and require less maintenance, something that is increasingly important5

for older adults to maintain their independence. Second, millennials, defined asthose born between 1980 and 1999, are transitioning in stages of life, becomingindependent and leaving their parents homes. In the past few decades, there hasalso been a cultural shift among the preferences of adults in their 20’s and 30’s(Infranca, 2014). Many are staying in school longer, are delaying marriage andwaiting to have children if at all. Notably, from 2000 to 2011, marriages declinednationally from 8.2 marriages per 1,000 individuals to 6.8 marriages per 1,000individuals (CDC, 2014). As a result, household sizes have also shrunk and morepeople are living alone.The Metropolitan Area Planning Council, Greater Boston’s regionalplanning agency, also recently recognized that new housing demand will outpacepopulation growth due to declining household size in the Boston area. Theyexplained that with more single-person households (especially seniors), moredivorced households, and fewer children per family, average household size islikely to decline 10% by 2040 under cautious predictions. In other words, anaverage group of people will form 10% more households and thus require 10%more housing units than they do today (MAPC 2014).At the same time, the number of multi-generational households, whichwere more prevalent in prior generations, is increasing (Infranca, 2014). Mostlythe result of immigrant families, new housing structures with spaces for agingparents to live are becoming more desired. These changing preferences aredriving the need for more multi-generational homes in the Greater Boston area.6

Unfortunately, there is no panacea for the affordable housing crisis.Current affordable and workforce housing programs and zoning initiatives havefailed to keep up with market demands. Thus, different approaches are needed tosolve the insufficient housing supply. Accessory dwelling units or ADUs, defined asseparate housekeeping units, complete with sleeping, cooking and sanitaryfacilities, contained within a single-family dwelling, or in an accessory building(Town of Grafton, MA, 2015), is one such approach this thesis will examine further.Accessory dwelling units however are not a new concept. In fact, they werecommon in single-family homes prior to the mid 1900’s, existing as servant’squarters, places for aging family members to stay or even units above garages forchauffer living facilities (Jackson, 1985). In some historic neighborhoods, carriagehouses behind the main house also provided affordable housing for workers (Tyre,2008). In the 1940’s and 1950’s, families around the country often rented out anextra apartment over their garage or in their basement to earn income (Mazur,2000). In the mid 1900’s urban sprawl and low-density suburban developmentsgrew through the ubiquity of cars, the GI Bill, the Interstate Highway Act of 1956and homeownership tax benefits. As suburban communities grew inMassachusetts, towns passed restrictive zoning regulations to maintain lowdensity development. Many of those zoning regulations either strictly limited orbanned ADUs (Yukubowsky, 1995). These changes caused ADUs to disappear.In Massachusetts today, there are no state laws governing ADUs. TheCommonwealth’s Smart Growth Toolkit provides bylaw suggestions to aid towns7

to pass legislation, but the toolkit itself holds no legal traction. There is alsodifferent nomenclature used for ADUs throughout the state. Commonly they canbe referred to as accessory apartments, guest apartments, in-law suites, familyapartments or secondary units (Commonwealth of Massachusetts, 2016). Otherterms include granny flats, laneway houses, and backyard cottages. Many townshave passed legislation concerning ADUs, but laws vary throughout the state, withsome banning them outright, others allowing them by special permit or site-planreview and a few allowing them by-right.This thesis will investigate community policies and attitudes towardsaccessory dwelling units. This will be primarily achieved by reviewing existing townbylaws and city ordinances in the greater Boston area and conducting interviewsof local planners. First however, the following section will assess the affordability,limitations and drawbacks of ADUs as documented by academic research andreview existing case-studies which assessed ADUs policies and outcomes in twoU.S. cities.8

Chapter 2 - Literature ReviewAffordability Potential for Accessory Dwelling UnitsAffordability is one of the most commonly noted benefits of accessorydwelling units. In the case of ADUs however, affordability can mean manydifferent things, including affordability for the owner and affordability for therenter. Likewise, advocates at the local or state government level may see ADUsas an attractive affordable housing option, because the homeowner is typicallypaying the cost of construction.This idea that ADU’s aid in the creation of affordable housing is one of themost common benefits described by town and state housing agencies, plannersand journalists when discussing ADUs. As ADUs are typically limited in square-feetor number of occupants, and/or are required to be rented to a family member, itis easy to understand why affordability benefits are assumed. ADUs also increasethe housing supply, which should help decrease housing costs. Unfortunately, inour complex urban society that does not always appear happen, and there arerelatively few case-studies that empirically investigate the ways in which ADUsare, or are not affordable.The reasons for limited studies are due to a few complicating factors. First,many cities have a substantial number of homes with ADUs that are not properlypermitted (Brown, 2009). Some are grandfathered units, but many ignore the lawdue to limited financing and immediate need. Still others are often unaware of thepermitting process. In fact, Martin John Brown predicted, after conducting a study9

in Portland, OR, that there are likely two to three times more ADUs in Portlandthan permits suggest. Another study which considered affordability of ADUs in theCity of Berkeley, California, found that potentially 90 percent of ADUs in the city’sflatland area lacked permits (Chappel et al., 2012). The significant number of“black market” ADUs make them difficult to study, or even identify.Further, finding rental data is difficult. Most cities, including Boston, havenot collected rental data from landlords, and no city or regional database existswith aggregated rental data. Using online websites including Zillow or Craigslistallows some insight into rental costs, but those have their limitations, and are nottypically comprehensive. Finally, many ADUs even if they are permitted, arerented out to family members or friends. As a result, many units are offered at nocost, or at a rent far below the market rate.ADUs and the rental market: Studies from the East Bay of San Francisco, CAand Portland, ORTwo studies, both on the west coast of the United States, have beenconducted to understand ADUs in the context of their cities. The study areas werethe East Bay of San Francisco, CA, and Portland, OR. The first study was conductedby the Institute of Urban and Regional Development from University of CaliforniaBerkeley. Researchers sought to quantify the affordability of ADUs in their EastBay neighborhood of San Francisco. To achieve this, they administered surveys toneighborhood residents that asked questions about ADU ownership, pricing andpermitting. They then combined those results with rental data from real estate10

websites. Overall, the study found that 16 percent of single family residentialproperties in East Bay have at least one, typically detached secondary unit. Theyalso found that nearly 17 percent of ADUs were occupied for zero rent, and thatthose rented to strangers were at least 6% cheaper than comparable nonsecondary units (Wegmann & Chappel, 2012).The second study in Portland, Oregon conducted by the State of OregonDepartment of Environmental Quality, used a similar method of surveyingresidents and comparing results with data from the American Housing Survey,with data aggregated from the US Census Bureau and local assessor parcel data.Their results found that the city had 800 ADUs legally permitted in 2013,accounting for 0.5% of single family properties. Thirteen percent of those 800units were occupied for zero rent, with another five percent renting below 500,a rate according to Martin John Brown is far below the market average (Palmeri,2014).These two studies, provide an insight into the context and rentalaffordability of ADUs in their respective cities. Due to housing markets and rentalprices varying significantly from city to city, and limited data, academics havewondered whether ADUs create affordable housing at all. Their question is valid,as researchers have found that higher-income homeowners typically do not renttheir ADUs (Brown et al., 2014). Instead, owners use them as offices, art studios,short-term rentals or as an extra living space. A newspaper article from Davis,California similarly found that most accessory units in the city are utilized as home11

offices for higher-income professionals (Sakash, 2013). Another threat againstaffordability, is that ADUs can be rented on the short-term market, throughservices such as Airbnb rather than on the long-term market. Palo Alto, CA, hasstruggled with this issue, and stricter regulation on ADU and the Airbnb rentalmarket is being considered (Sheyner, 2016).ADU’s and Owner AffordabilityUnderstanding owner affordability through the creation of ADUs issimilarly important. Considering units that are rented out by homeowners, manyacademics and legislators state that ADUs help owners on fixed incomes,especially in times of recession or when homeowners retire (Semon, 2009). Otherbenefits are that ADUs enable homeowners to age-in-place. The AARP and theAmerican Planning Association agreed in a report that ADUs have the potential toassist older homeowners in maintaining their independence, by providingadditional income to offset property taxes and maintenance and repair costs(Cobb & Dvorak, 2000). ADUs help older homeowners remain in their communityand maintain their social networks. Similarly, in circumstances where two or moregenerations live on a property with an ADU, living costs may be shared (Palmeri,2014). These arguments however, are based on the assumed ability ofhomeowners to create ADUs. The next section will discuss the ability ofhomeowners to develop ADUs, and investigate possible development limitations.12

Is the Market Blocked? Development LimitationsIt is important to assess the limitations or obstacles both financially andlegally that exists in developing ADUs to understand their possibilities. I will firstdiscuss the financial limitations that may hinder construction including loans andpermitting, and then explore possible legal barriers.The creation of ADUs, whether they are conversions or new construction,often requires financing. Restricted financing options can prevent homeownersfrom being able to build an ADU, especially if they have low, moderate or fixedincomes. Banks often do not consider expected rental income from the extra unitwhen offering loans, and make homeowners qualify with only their currentincome. (Brown & Watkins, 2012). Rosanne Haggerty noted that the tendency forADUs to be under-appraised may account for banks’ reluctance to finance ADUs(Haggerty, 2013). Haggerty further commented that resistance may also be due toappraisers’ lack of familiarity with the ADU building structures. Others believehowever, that under-appraisal may simply be a result of limited market data toshow how property values increase from the construction of an ADU. Fear oflawsuits from an over-appraisal, also generates under-appraised ADU properties(Infranca, 2014).Another barrier to the creation of ADUs, or at least the legal creation ofthem, is the cost of required permits. The ways these affect ADU production canbe seen in Portland, Oregon, as they have adjusted permit prices. Before 2011, thecity charged around 10,000 for an ADU Permit. From 2011-2016 however, the13

city waived the fees for a permit to incentivize new projects. This led to a markedincrease in development (Scarlett, 2016).Building regulations can also be a barrier to the creation or legaldevelopment of ADUs. (Chapple et al., 2012). Codes and bylaws vary from city tocity, but nearly all limit the size of ADUs through maximum square feet allowed,number of bedrooms, number of tenants or and/or percent size compared to theprimary building. Size limitations however can make ADUs in some cases costprohibitive. For instance, if a small house is building an ADU and is limited to 33%in size, the cost of the renovation or new construction, compounded with buildingpermit fees may make the development infeasible (Palmeri, 2014). Michael Brownagrees that if the full potential of ADUs are to be realized, permitting and buildingrequirement barriers need to be addressed (Brown, 2009).Community Attitudes of ADUsNot all community members and officials have positive attitudes towardADUs, and critics have struck consistent themes to express concern. Most notableis the fear that ADUs will change the existing “neighborhood fabric” of the area,and have subsequent impacts of decreasing property values (Palmeri, 2014). Thisis based off the concern that homes with ADUs will look more like duplexes andmake suburban communities feel more urban.It is also feared that smaller rental units may attract residents who couldnot otherwise afford their neighborhood, including college students, Airbnb14

renters or other lower income individuals. Residents in Ann Arbor, Michigan forinstance expressed their concern of renters and especially college studentsmoving into ADUs at a community meeting in 2016. Their fear centered on theconcern that students would host noisy parties, and that more cars would cluttertheir neighborhood streets (Stanton, 2016).Additional strain on local utilities and amenities including parking andschools is another common concern. People fear exacerbated parking and morecongested road-ways in places where off-street parking for ADUs is not required(Liebig, Koenig & Pynoos, 2006). Parents and town officials also voiced concernthat ADUs would over-burden school systems, due to increased density. Withmore households, residents fear the town might need to build new or expandexisting schools to meet demand, costing taxpayers more money. Similarly,amenities like sewer or water systems, especially in coastal areas where aginginfrastructure can already be a problem, is a further concern (Rondinaro, 1985).Towns might not be able to support increased density based on their water qualityor other infrastructure needs.Other residents are against allowing ADUs, as they feel municipalities arealready over-burdened by existing laws and requirements. Cities and towns havelimited capacity to enforce rules, and that is a reason to keep rules as simple aspossible (Dain, 2015). As such, officials in towns that are not seeing large numbersof illegal accessory apartments, are reluctant to ease ADU restrictions for fear of15

passing laws they know town employees will be unable to enforce (Rondinaro,1985).On the other hand, many towns have existing problems with illegal ADUs,especially those with high rents burdens or aging populations. Many believe thatif people are creating them illegally, towns should pass legislation to allow them.That would ensure ADUs are built safely and that they comply with building coderequirements. Edward Gallagher, Mayor of Old Tappan, New Jersey, a communitybuilt of mostly single family homes with numerous illegal ADUs, noted “it makesno sense to stick our heads in the sand and pretend [ADUs are not being built].''(Rondinaro, 1985).The news media has also played a part in adding to the dialogue aboutADUs. Over the past 30 years, ADUs have been topics of conversation at the stateand community levels and have been covered by journalists. Interestinglyhowever, many news reports including stories in popular press like the Los AngelesTimes, The Wall Street Journal and U.S. News & World Report most often focus ondisruptions and issues caused by ADUs rather than positive stories (Liebig, Koenig& Pynoos, 2006). Articles discuss instances where people have violated zoning andbuilding codes, or where ADU residents have caused parking issues on streets orstrained school systems and other town amenities. Certain cities like Portland andVancouver who have worked to pass progressive ADU bylaws have sought tochange the dialogue and resident perspectives of ADUs by hosting events like ADU16

open houses and community meetings, removing development impact fees, andcreating video advertisements to promote the idea.This Thesis ResearchStudying ADUs are difficult due to limited academic research andcommunity data. Few studies exist that investigate the number of ADUs in a townwhether legal or illegal, explore how ADUs are used, or seek to understand why acommunity does or does not allow them. The few cities and organizations thathave considered this topic have been located on the West Coast, most notably inthe Pacific Northwest including Portland, Oregon, Seattle, Washington andVancouver, British Columbia, and coastal Californian cities.As such, this thesis seeks to fill a gap in understanding how ADUs areperceived, used and permitted in the Greater Boston region. It accomplishes thisby looking at a variety of ADU issues including permitting, affordability, publicsentiment and the state legislative housing bill S.2311. It is also grounded by threeprimary research questions. First, how do towns in the MAPC region regulateaccessory apartments? Second, are ADUs being created, and if so for what reasonor purpose? Third, what are the local opinions of the Massachusetts state housingBill S.2311?These questions will help explain ADUs in Massachusetts at the state,regional and local level by aggregating and categorizing ADU bylaws andordinances and conducting interviews of planning staff and other municipalofficials of select towns. These steps will be explained further in the subsequent17

methods section, followed by review of the bylaw data and interview results.Those results will be discussed, research limitations examined and the thesis willconclude with recommendations and suggestions for further research.18

Chapter 3 - MethodsMy investigation of community policies and attitudes toward accessorydwelling units in Greater Boston will involve two main data components.Collection and documentation of accessory dwelling unit bylaws and ordinancesof the towns and cities in Greater Boston, and interviews of planning staff to learntheir opinions and attitudes towards policies regulating ADU’s in their respectivetowns. This thesis will define Greater Boston as the 101 towns that make up theMetropolitan Area Planning Council’s jurisdiction. The region includes Ipswich tothe North, Duxbury to the South, and Bolton to the West, represented in Figure 1below.101 Towns and Citiesin the MAPC exWenhamNorth ntWatertownWestonMarlboroughSalemMarbleheadSaugus LynnSwapscottMelroseLexington WinchesterStow nnfieldMedford MaldenEverettNahantRevereSomerville ChelseaMAPC MunicipalitiesWinthropState BorderCambridgeNewtonWaylandBy Alexandra LeveringSources: Tufts University & A. tonMedfieldMillisMedwayQuincyBraintreeWeymouth hamDoverSharonStoughtonHanover FoxboroughDuxbury0 1.252.5Figure 1: The Metropolitan Area Planning Council Region and its Subregions1957.510Miles

ADU Data CollectionTo analyze existing ADU policies by municipa

waiting to have children if at all. Notably, from 2000 to 2011, marriages declined nationally from 8.2 marriages per 1,000 individuals to 6.8 marriages per 1,000 individuals (CDC, 2014). As a result, household sizes have also shrunk and more people are living alone. The Metr

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