New ‘Granny Flat’ Law Provides Cheap Housing

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The Payson Planning Commission has embraced a stopgap solution to the town’s lack of affordable housing: granny flats.

The commission this week capped more than six months of study by urging the town council to adopt a new law regulating the rental of detached units or rooms in single family neighborhoods. The issue will come before the council on Nov. 4.

The off and on discussion had several months ago led to the establishment of a study group, which then recommended the town basically adopt Sedona’s ordinance regulating so-called accessory dwelling units — or guest quarters.

The current town law bans the rental of rooms and detached “granny flat” units in residential neighborhoods. However, many people do rent out such units, which provide an important source of low-cost housing where the few apartment complexes generally have waiting lists.

Acting Community Development Director Ray Erlandsen said the study group concluded the Sedona ordinance answered all the key questions.

The new law would limit the units to monthly rentals 300 to 800 square feet in size with no more than two people in the unit. It would repeal the existing ban on such rentals and allow the add-on units to include kitchen facilities. However, it includes many restrictions that might still make many of the existing rental rooms and units illegal.

Erlandsen said he’s not sure how the town would handle various impact fees, especially for new construction. The existing ordinance doesn’t allow for separate utility hookups, but the new one does. Erlandsen each department would have to decide whether a property owner would have to pay impact fees on a detached unit.

Currently, the town imposes a $7,500 impact fee for a new home to hook up to the existing water system. Other fees, including one paid to the separate sanitation district, bring the total cost of impact fees on a new home to about $15,000.

In addition, Erlandsen said the planning commission made it clear that it didn’t want the new law to override restrictions by the many homeowners associations. The town surveyed all the associations in town and found that about half of them would not allow such rental units.

The proposed ordinance would include several restrictions.

• The detached units must match the main house architecturally

• Homeowners can’t have more than one rental unit per lot

• The property owner must live in the main house

• The unit must be between 300 and 800 square feet in size and no more than a third the size of the main house

• Separate entrances and stairways must be on the side or rear of the house

• Windows should protect the privacy of neighbors

Existing illegal units can be brought into compliance, so long as they meet all the conditions.

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