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In an effort to increase housing options, Spokane City Council relaxes rules for secondary suites

In the name of increasing citywide housing options, Spokane lawmakers recently instituted code changes to add more flexibility to the city’s rules on secondary suites.

A secondary suite is an attached or detached structure that serves as an additional living unit on a property with its own facilities, such as a kitchen, bedrooms and bathrooms.

Legislation passed by the City Council last week removed some ADU restrictions, including requiring a landlord to occupy at least one of the dwellings on a particular site. Owner occupancy is still required at sites with ADU if there is a short-term rental, which – by city code – is rental to overnight guests for less than 30 days.

The new ordinance also increases the maximum size of insulated ADUs from 600 to 975 square feet or 75% of the size of the house (whichever is larger), removes the minimum lot size requirement, eases parking requirements and allows ADUs on properties with any main structure, such as a duplex or triplex.

“Creating more housing units, even in the form of ADUs, will only help,” Councilman Michael Cathcart said last week.

Relaxing ADU regulations was one of the priorities set out in the city’s housing action plan passed by council last year as well as in the housing emergency declared by Mayor Nadine Woodward.

The changes passed by City Council last week were widely recommended by the Spokane Plan Commission.

The removal of the minimum lot size requirement was done to encourage owners of smaller properties to pursue ADUs, deputy planner Amanda Beck told city council last week. The minimum lot size was previously 5,000 square feet.

With the parking change, the rule was relaxed to no longer require an off-street parking spot for studio or one-bedroom ADUs.

In addition to the increase in square footage allowed, the roof height allowance for ADUs has also increased from 17 to 25 feet.

“The logic behind that would be an office hull plan for an ADU, just a typical one you can find online, you should be able to fit a two bedroom/two bath with a full kitchen that size,” Beck said. . size increases.

Dropping the owner occupancy requirement was a talking point for council, as councilor Lori Kinnear pushed to require owners of properties with ADU to live on-site for three years.

“I still believe that we should have owner occupancy because it is a mechanism by which we can perhaps guarantee to some degree that there will not be … people from outside the state that will come in and buy, convert and move people,” Kinnear said.

The owner-occupancy requirement has been a roadblock for the city’s ADUs, council chairman Breean Beggs said. Councilman Zack Zappone said he plans to draft a resolution requiring annual reports on the city’s ADUs to help determine if the code changes are working.

“Frankly, units in our city are already being used for Airbnbs,” Councilman Jonathan Bingle said. “So for us to do more units, even if that translates to more Airbnbs, that also translates to more rentals or ownership opportunities or things like that throughout the community.”

Councilor Betsy Wilkerson added: ‘I don’t know how we could legislate people’s lives for three years.

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