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Boise eases restrictions on accessory dwelling units

Residents worry this could mean more AirBnBs.
Posted at 9:52 PM, Jun 18, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-19 00:16:38-04

BOISE, Idaho — As housing prices skyrocket, Boise City Council is taking action-- hoping that eased restrictions will be a solution for the affordable housing crisis. But one Boise resident is concerned the plan could backfire.

"We were hearing from so many people throughout the city that one we're needing more housing options at all different levels of pricing. And then from homeowners that it'd be nice to have more flexibility in creating accessory dwelling units behind their houses," said Lauren McLean, Boise City Council President.

City council voted unanimously to ease up on restrictions of those units, and made these changes:

  • Maximum number of bedrooms increases from one to two.
  • Maximum size of entire unit increases from 600 square feet to 700 square feet.
  • A dedicated parking spot for one-bedroom units will no longer be required.

The idea is that more people can live on a single property. But one Boisean, Lori Dicaire, is concerned this could result in the opposite desired effect.

"Turning them into basically, like, de facto hotels does not get us to that solution," said Dicaire, advocate and founder, Vanishing Boise.

She fears the loosened restrictions will result in more VRBOs and AirBnBs, which would displace local residents.

"And then you don't really develop like a real sense of community-- like there's no one to go to your neighborhood association meeting-- right? Like, you know, there's no one to knock on the door and ask for a cup of sugar," said Dicaire.

One thing the city considered, but ended up not changing, was the owner-occupy rule that requires owners to live on-site while renting out their ADU.

"Because the public was so concerned about that, we decided not to include that in our changes now. And so, for the ADU to exist, the owner has to live on site," said McLean.

But when it comes to enforcing that, McLean says the city is only relying on neighbors reporting neighbors.

"It's important-- if you're concerned about an ADU and you have concerns about the whether or not the owner's living on-site-- just to let the city know," said McLean.

During a comment period the city held earlier this year, 650 boise residents weighed in on the proposals. Nobody, however, publicly testified.