ADUs, Industrialized Housing, party walls, accessory structures. My head is swimming with all of the terms and code/zoning regulations that are up for discussion in Dallas as it tries to decide whether accessory dwelling units (ADUs) should be allowed in our city.
Austin recently passed changes to its regulations. Other cities that are larger or smaller than Dallas have also seen the light. They are working with builders and homeowners instead of against them to come up with a solution that will make their cities better places to live, especially with the new challenges we are all facing to stay healthy and safe.
Being involved in politics and government regulations has always scared me. Still, when the Fair Park debate came up a few years ago, I decided that it was time for this Lifestylist® to get involved and use my skills and network to help make positive changes for affordable housing in Dallas.
Living in a 1940s printing factory built to be a live-work space has its challenges. Convincing people like the city sanitation department that yes, only two people live here. We aren’t running an Airbnb, mortuary, or illegal apartment complex. I like living in my diverse Oak Cliff neighborhood in a building with lots of history and character.
When I couldn’t convince sanitation to return my trash cans, someone suggested that I contact my city council member, Chad West, to get help. That was the perfect solution, and he got things done. Chad is also involved in getting the City Plan Commissioner to update the ADU ordinance, and I was shocked that I didn’t know that all of this was going on because it’s something that I’m working on nationally.
I also realized that most consumers and homeowners have no idea what this is all about, but this literally could be coming to a backyard near you. If you are as confused as I am, I have good news — I’ve been reading and asking questions to give you the condensed version of what this is all about that you don’t have to be a college professor to understand.
ADU: Accessory Dwelling Unit
Simply put, an accessory dwelling unit is a second small dwelling constructed on the same lot or grounds as the primary residence. It cannot be sold or purchased separately, and the owner of the ADU is the same as the main home.
The City of Dallas states that “ADUs are quite often known as granny flats, garage apartments, back houses, or mother-in-law quarters, and are located on the same lot as the main house.”
Is an ADU a “tiny house?” It can be, but not all tiny houses are ADUs.
I never heard this term before, but it is used a lot in the ordinance that the city is proposing. According to Section 1202.002 of the Texas Occupations Code, industrialized housing is a residential structure that is
- designed for the occupancy of one or more families;
- constructed in one or more modules or constructed using one or more modular components built at a location other than the permanent site; and
- designed to be used as a permanent residential structure when the module or the modular component is transported to the permanent site and erected or installed on a permanent foundation system.
When I heard this term, I immediately thought what they are really talking about is a modular-built home where the modular components are built off-site and transported to the property where they are placed on a permanent foundation and utilities are hooked up — usually in a matter of days.
The benefits of this type of construction are that they cut down on the disruption in the neighborhood — an ADU can be delivered and installed within days instead of a minimum of 90-plus days that it takes to build using traditional methods.
The good news is that there are companies in the Dallas-Fort Worth area that are already building these, complete with siding, roofs, and finish out that will complete and enhance the existing homes and architecture that we have here.
Skyline Champion has a building facility in Burleson that can build an ADU like this that I saw at the International Builders Show this year in Las Vegas.
The URBANEER by Genesis ADUs has a feature that I can’t stop thinking about – a moveable wall with wireless power. This makes it possible to have a larger living space during the day, and with the help of a fold-down bed, you have a spacious bedroom at night. This home feels so much bigger than it is, and has a full kitchen and utility room.
Who needs an ADU?
I think that almost anyone could benefit from having additional space with their homes. With the COVID-19 pandemic hitting Texas as hard as it has, imagine the benefits of having one of these to quarantine in. Or a place where elderly parents can live a few steps away without living under your roof.
You could also use your ADU to entertain friends and family at home, or how about as a place where you can home school your kids and create an exceptional learning environment.
This change could be such a good thing for Dallas in so many ways, and I am looking forward to learning and sharing more on this topic. For more information, you can check out the City of Dallas web page on the issue, and I have heard that they will also be doing some virtual town meetings to explore further and explain the potential changes in the codes.
Heritage Oak Cliff and Dallas City Council Member Chad West will be holding a Zoom conference on August 18 to share more information.