If you’d like to build an ADU in Garden City, you’ve got some new ground rules to follow.
Garden City City Council is in the final stages of approving a new set of rules governing accessory dwelling units, or mother-in-law suites. The small, secondary homes have become more popular as the Treasure Valley grows and homeowners are looking for options to house family members close by or make extra rental income. These new rules expand the size of ADUs allowed in Garden City, allowing larger units than its big municipal brother Boise.
The new ordinance allows for a maximum size of 800 square feet for an ADU or half of the size of the main house, whichever is greater. This is larger than the 700 square foot maximum allowed in Boise, but smaller than the maximum allowed in Portland and California.
Garden City ADUs must be located behind the main home, on a foundation and there can only be one on each property. All ADUs also have to include a minimum of 300 square feet to ensure there’s enough space for a kitchen, a bathroom and shower. This ordinance also does not trump any governing documents for homes located in an HOA banning ADUs.
This change is part of several revamps to city code Garden City is undertaking, with its new parking code set to be decided in the coming weeks being the most contentious. The small city has seen rapid growth and is rapidly turning over from a community with large swaths covered in mobile home parks to a Mecca for upscale, infill housing along the Boise River.
The ADU code proposal does not lay out parking requirements because this issue will be covered in the new parking rules adopted by the city council later. Garden City has to revamp its parking code after a successful lawsuit from developer Jason Jones led to an opinion from a judge calling the city’s regulations parking inadequate.
‘Not a comprehensive strategy’
ADUs might be a housing option for GC residents as the city continues to grow denser, but it probably won’t solve the area’s demand for affordable housing.
Mayor John Evans said the goal for the ordinance was to open up more diversity of housing types in the city and give property owners with larger lots options to house family members or make rental income. But, he acknowledged that in a landlocked, highly developed community like Garden City there are not many lots with enough room for an ADU that aren’t in an HOA.
“It’s not a comprehensive strategy,” he said. “There just isn’t enough locations they could be placed to make a significant dent in the affordable housing discussion.”
City Council President James Page agreed. He said the idea behind the ordinance was to provide options for people to increase flexibility for housing on their properties. But because of the small spaces in ADUs, the difficulties with storage and how the more affordable materials sometimes used to build them can lead to deterioration, Page doesn’t think they should be the city’s move on affordable housing.
“To me, an ADU seems like a temporary part of the puzzle,” he said. “I think these solutions are well-meaning and they help people in crisis, but I don’t think they’re a long-term solution to affordability.”
What about tiny homes on wheels?
At the same time, Garden City has been studying a proposal to allow tiny homes on wheels in Garden City from 2021 mayoral candidate Hannah Ball and Jones, the developer who sued the city over parking rules, for over a year. Tiny homes on wheels function differently than ADUs and can be moved by their owner somewhat akin to a mobile home, but aren’t as large and are cheaper to transport.
The proposal has come before the council for deliberation and drafting several times, but a deal to pass it hasn’t been reached. Evans said the discussions with Ball and Jones have been “interesting,” but the ordinance isn’t high on his list of priorities right now as the city prepares for a series of contentious hearings on a proposal for dense housing at the River Club.