After at least eight years of tedious debate and a complicated but short-lived petition overall process, Raleigh residents can finally build accessory dwelling units by right.

The Raleigh City Council approved new rules governing ADUs⁠—also known as backyard cottages or granny flats⁠—on Tuesday night in a 6-1 vote. 

Council member David Cox was the lone dissenter, objecting to the idea that the units could be rented out on AirBnb (a separate ordinance regulating short term rentals is in the works, and given Cox’s record on the issue he’ll probably vote against it and will probably lose.) 

The new rules allow the construction of accessory dwelling units by right in any residential district in the city. The unit may be attached to the home, detached, or above a garage. The dwellings, which can be no bigger than the primary residence, cannot be mobile and must be attached to a permanent foundation on the property. Only one ADU is allowed per property and can be up to 1,000 square feet depending on the lot size. 

The rules are about a million times less complicated than the process put in place by the prior council, which required property owners to petition their neighbors for permission to enter into an overlay zone. That process, unsurprisingly, resulted in little if any actual ADUs being built (which was probably the point.) 

Council member Nicole Stewart asked to amend the text change by striking rules limiting occupancy and banning the units from being used as short-term rental units. Cox objected to this, claiming it undermined the city’s affordable housing initiatives.

“It really doesn’t address our housing shortage and will end up relegating a large number of these units to Airbnb-like vacation rentals,” Cox said. “Clearly, what Ms. Stewart wants to do is introduce commercial into our residential areas and really it negates the quality of us to be able to create affordable housing. I’ll vote no.”

Stewart’s amendments were supported by everyone but Cox, and the ordinance passed 6-1 (the council is currently down a member since the resignation of Saige Martin amid sexual assault allegations.) 

Following the vote, Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin encouraged the council to start thinking about ways to incentivize residents to actually start building ADUs.

“I know we haven’t had that discussion but some communities are waiving fees, others are allowing premade designs,” Baldwin said. 

You can read the new rules below (Note: Items 3, 6, and 7 were removed at Stewart’s request). 

Raleigh ADU Ordinance by Leigh Tauss on Scribd

If you want to know just how far the debate on ADUs has come in Raleigh, check out this INDY article from 2012 on the topic. 

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