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The Custom Residential Architects Network (CRAN®) Knowledge Community develops knowledge and information to benefit architects who are engaged in, or who are interested in learning more about, custom residential practice. CRAN® presents information and facilitates the exchange of knowledge and expertise to promote the professional development of its members via discussion forums, national symposia and conventions, publications, and local activities.

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  • 1.  Zoning and density - case study examples for article

    Posted 21 days ago

    Municipalities around the country are revising zoning regulations to increase density in an effort to address housing shortages. Have you designed an ADU or other residential project that takes advantage of zoning revisions that increase density? Have you discovered unintended consequences of these zoning revisions related to residential projects? In either case, I would like to hear about your project or experience at Linda_Reeder@outlook.com. I am collecting case studies and information for possible inclusion in a magazine article. Thank you!



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    Linda Reeder FAIA
    New Haven CT
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    Jain us at AIA24 for practice-related sessions! June 5 to 8, Washington, DC, click here to learn more.


  • 2.  RE: Zoning and density - case study examples for article

    Posted 20 days ago
    Edited by Ivan Contreras AIA 19 days ago

    As a residential Architect / Builder, I am very interested in this topic. It is a great opportunity to mitigate shortages in housing, by effectively increasing allowed density, as well as reducing suburban sprawl.

    In the US, municipalities are only slowly starting to adopt the mixed-use concept. It will be long before they start discussing minimum density (not maximum).

    For some weird reason, I was drawn to learn about the finance side of things. 

    At a housing summit in Washington DC, last year, I spoke with someone from Fannie Mae, to try to understand how an ADU gets financed. The answer was, whether attached or detached, unequivocally, the ADU cannot be a second mortgage, it must be a refi. It was also said that this refi would take into account the credit of the applicant, as well as the economic viability of the ADU. 

    So, on one hand, you now have an opportunity to make a part of your house an income-producing property, yet on another, you would have to relinquish your favorable mortgage rate to a new higher rate

    Once again, we see policies that do not favor the middle class or below. The policies could/should be an integral part of fighting gentrification and being able to stay in your neighborhood.

    Another idea came up: someone could rent an empty piece of his/her lot to have a tiny home installed, which did not belong to the homeowner, but to a third party, who could rent the home and pay rent to the homeowner for using the land.

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    Ivan Contreras, LEED AP, AIA
    CONTRERAS MUNOZ & CO
    Miami FL
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    Jain us at AIA24 for practice-related sessions! June 5 to 8, Washington, DC, click here to learn more.


  • 3.  RE: Zoning and density - case study examples for article

    Posted 20 days ago

    Linda, I have not designed an ADU...yet!  However, I think you may find what Boston is doing rather interesting.  Check out their ADU zoning program here -  Additional Dwelling Unit Program

    Boston.gov remove preview
    Additional Dwelling Unit Program
    The Additional Dwelling Unit Program allows owner occupants in the City of Boston to carve out a new space within their homes. They can create smaller, independent units, known as Additional Dwelling Units (ADUs) once the design has been approved. For those who qualify, we offer loans to build approved ADU designs.
    View this on Boston.gov >

    The city is attempting to expand the program as well - Expanding ADU Access in Boston

    Boston.gov remove preview
    Expanding ADU Access in Boston
    The Additional Dwelling Unit (ADU) is a self-contained residential living unit. They can provide additional income for homeowners and flexible, separate living arrangements for families to age in place, or support relatives or children while still maintaining their privacy.
    View this on Boston.gov >



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    Daniel Steger AIA
    DGS/a Architecture + Design
    West Roxbury MA
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    Jain us at AIA24 for practice-related sessions! June 5 to 8, Washington, DC, click here to learn more.


  • 4.  RE: Zoning and density - case study examples for article

    Posted 20 days ago

    We have designed 50+ We also have a pre-approved plan that has been used in Seattle 15-20 times. We also help cities and towns recognize barriers and rewrite their ADU code to reduce those barriers. Washington state allows ADUs to be sold independently of the primary residence if you create a condominium association which we've done.  Big fan and I'm happy to talk.  Email me at matt@castarchitecture.com



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    Matthew Hutchins AIA
    CAST architecture
    Seattle WA
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    Jain us at AIA24 for practice-related sessions! June 5 to 8, Washington, DC, click here to learn more.


  • 5.  RE: Zoning and density - case study examples for article

    Posted 18 days ago

    At the most fundamental level, zoning changes allowing ADU's and similar additions, reduces affordability for first-time and low-income buyers. Zoning that allows higher density on a property and the ability to rent spaces, increases the value of the property to investors, who price out first-time buyers and low-income. It increases available rental opportunities which only slow rental price increases. All of the proposed housing solutions have the same effect. When rental income restrictions are enacted, investment in rental properties drop, reducing the quality of housing. Too many times the complexity of problems is ignored in favor of single-point actions that cannot achieve the desired outcome.



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    Mark McDonald Assoc. AIA
    Port Charlotte FL
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    Jain us at AIA24 for practice-related sessions! June 5 to 8, Washington, DC, click here to learn more.


  • 6.  RE: Zoning and density - case study examples for article

    Posted 19 days ago

    Hi Linda-

    I've designed ADU's but think there application to create affordable housing is minimal at best. Most of the ADU's that I'm aware of actually end up as short term rentals, further exacerbating the problem. The size requirement imposed by most municipalities would not support a small family. Families are the ones most being affected by a lack of affordable housing options. I would look to the revision of single family zoning to include small 6-8 unit apartments within a single family district as a step in the right direction and a more impactful way to address the issue. 



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    Robert Ross AIA
    Ross Design, Inc.
    Atlanta GA
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    Jain us at AIA24 for practice-related sessions! June 5 to 8, Washington, DC, click here to learn more.


  • 7.  RE: Zoning and density - case study examples for article

    Posted 18 days ago

    Linda--Seattle builds nearly 1000 ADUs per year--It is one of the most popular forms of new housing here because:

    New residents can live in excellent established neighborhoods, with walkable access to neighborhood amenities like parks, schools and local businesses that need new customers. 

    They can be rented or purchased at a lower price point than a traditional larger new detached house. I would never call ADUs 'affordable' per se, because they cost more per foot than other types, and aren't subsidized or have fixed rent typically, but they are way less than houses. It is silly to demand ADUs be price controlled for lower income folks when we'd never do that for adjacent single-family houses on the open market.  

    There is very little impact on neighboring properties. In 15 years of building ADUs, I've never had a complaint, however I have had tons of neighbors inquire about building one themselves! 

    Today's household sizes are getting smaller (Seattle's is 1.83 people), and smaller DADUs serve many people who don't need as much house.

    They serve multigeneration households really well, as well as those aging in place (the AARP has been a huge proponent of ADUs for a decade because the smaller houses in often more walkable neighborhoods are better for the lifestyle needs of our silver wave of downsizing seniors). About 1/4 of our ADUs were built for the grandparents, sometimes by the grandparents on the adult kid's parcel.  

    Because zoning changes to allow them are citywide, property taxes don't increase just because cities institute ADU programs. Cities do get to leverage those new residents to make other contributions to the tax base like sales tax etc. 

    Honestly for me, the only downside is that ADUs are not the vehicle for addressing housing crisis--they're just a little too bespoke, and as one-offs don't have enough impact given the scale of the challenge. We actually need way more flexibility with middle housing types like multiplexes and townhomes if we want to scale up urban housing production beyond what we see in the current large apartment building market.  



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    Matthew Hutchins AIA
    CAST architecture
    Seattle WA
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    Jain us at AIA24 for practice-related sessions! June 5 to 8, Washington, DC, click here to learn more.


  • 8.  RE: Zoning and density - case study examples for article

    Posted 16 days ago

    Hi Linda!

    I have designed a few in Seattle and the surrounding area, but I've also run into current zoning issues that are limiting in the design of ADUs (both attached and detached units). I'm personally super excited about a WA state house bill that passed and is making it's way down into jurisdictions to allow for more models of residential density (up to six units per lot!) and would hopefully not restrict zoning for these additional units to only be sized for 1-2 bedroom units. Have a look - https://www.commerce.wa.gov/serving-communities/growth-management/growth-management-topics/planning-for-middle-housing/. 

    It's a fun read that I'm excited about! :) 



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    Emily Hagen AIA
    studio hagen
    Seattle WA
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    Jain us at AIA24 for practice-related sessions! June 5 to 8, Washington, DC, click here to learn more.