Auxiliary Dwelling Units in Baltimore!!!

Auxiliary Dwelling Unit in Portland, Oregon (Source: MJ Steen Group/Steve Law)

A few days ago, I received an email with some really promising news – 11 of the 14 Baltimore City Councilmembers (plus President Young) have introduced a council bill to allow Auxiliary Dwelling Units (ADUs) in Baltimore!!! ADUs are another name for “granny flats” or “mother-in-law apartments” that are either attached to or in the backyard behind a single family home.  I mentioned this idea to Councilman Ryan Dorsey (the councilperson heading the bill) back in November – just 4 months ago – and am pleased that he, the other councilmembers, and the collective consciousness have been able to put this together!!

This would allow homeowners to build and rent small, affordable living units in their backyards. Affordable housing of good quality is hard to find in Baltimore, and this would allow the market to increase across multiple neighborhoods, giving people with small incomes more living options across the city. Most importantly, this is a way to add affordable housing to single family, middle class neighborhoods and increase socioeconomic diversity. More affordable housing means less homelessness and less people being in danger of homelessness.

The biggest opportunity that ADUs could fulfill is as a temporary dwelling for people fixing up vacant houses. This would allow people the freedom to live in an ADU in their backyard and use the money that they save on rent for renovating the house. This new line of income would be most helpful for people who would have trouble being accepted for traditional loans and mortgages and be the key to increasing low-income homeownership.

These ideas are not new and already exist in rural areas. Growing up in a rural area myself, I knew many people who had trailers or small cottages in their backyards that they rent out to non-relatives. It’s also common for people to purchase land, then rent and live in a trailer on the land as they build a permanent, single family home. These same ideas could easily be adapted to urban and suburban environments.

I’m definitely attending Monday evening…I’ll let you know how it goes! Here’s the letter:

DOP header

City Councilman Ryan Dorsey and the City of Baltimore Department of Planning invite you to a public informational meeting regarding City Council Bill #18-0188- Zoning Auxiliary Dwelling Units. The purpose of this meeting is to discuss this bill, help understand what it will do and not do, and hear your concerns and questions before we hold any formal hearings on the bill.

The purpose of the bill is to allow, as a conditional use requiring approval by the Board of Zoning Appeals, “auxiliary dwelling units” in certain districts; defining certain terms; imposing certain use standards; and requiring compliance with certain additional bulk and yard regulations. A copy of the bill can be found here.

The meeting details are below:

When: March 19, 2018

Time: 5:00- 7:00 pm

Where: Department of Planning , 417 E Fayette Street- 8th Floor

Please be aware that photo identification is needed to enter the building. If there are special accommodations needed for this meeting, please call 410-396-PLAN.


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