Tempe Accessory Dwelling Units Update

Tempe Accessory Dwelling Unit Code

The conversation about Tempe Accessory Dwelling Units is heating up:

At the 11/20/2023 city council meeting, the most recent Tempe Accessory Dwelling Unit Code Update recommendations were shared with the public.

Prior to the meeting, the city sent postcards to residents, emails to neighborhood and HOA contacts and emails via a city newsletter. There is also an ADU info page on the Tempe.gov website.

After all of this outreach, we learned that many ADU questions remain. This was just one public meeting, and it’s clear that more meetings will be needed in the future.


Tempe Accessory Dwelling Units

What is an Accessory Dwelling Unit?

The definition given by the city is: An independent, seperately rentable dwelling unit located on the same lot with a stand-alone single-family home.

Sure, many think “rental” as in short term rental or mini hotel. Tempe probably doesn’t need a lot more of that. BUT, many other options remain. A long term, affordable rental could benefit you and benefit someone in need of a small, affordable home to lease.

Other uses could be: You may want or need a home for your elderly parents. Maybe you want to downsize but keep the “big” home for your young adult children and their family. What if you “need” a really cool  man cave or she shed? Maybe you work from home and want a real home office? SO many uses for an ADU.

What Did We Learn About ADUs in Tempe?

Like any city council meeting, the public was invited to participate with questions and comments. Certainly some members of the public need more information in order to have an intelligent conversation about ADUs.

I felt like the presentation was full of useful information. I appreciate that we heard from people both for and against allowing more ADUs in the city.

The anti-development folks were there to complain about special interest groups tearing the city apart. We also heard from people who want to preserve neighborhoods and fight for affordable housing.

When our councilmembers weighed in on the presentation, it was apparent they want more public input. We also learned that they will need more information to come to a consensus. But, the councilmembers genuinely seem to want to get this right.

Are Accessory Dwelling Units Good or Bad?

Back in 2019, there was a change to create more ADUs in parts of Tempe.  Ordinance 02019.08 was adopted 4/11/19. The plan made a change to allow ADUs on residential properties that were zoned multi-family. Some feared that this would ruin neighborhoods. The five permits that have been issued since 2019 have not caused major problems. I don’t think the other two in process will be different.

BUT, any reasonable person would have concerns over zoning changes without some type of regulation.

Going forward, many things need to be discussed. Short-term rentals, neighborhood characteristics, parking, deed restrictions, lot size requirements and private property rights all have to be taken into consideration. As Mayor Woods said: “We need to figure this out.”


Accessory Dwelling Units in Tempe AZ

Are Other Communities Allowing Accessory Dwelling Units?

Back in June of this year, the City of Phoenix made a change to their zoning ordinance. This change allows Accessory Dwelling units in residential districts.

California has also passed some aggressive ADU legislation recently. Places like Seattle and Oregon have also implemented similar strategies. To me, it seems irresponsible to allow people to sell ADUs like condos. It just opens up a LOT of potential problems. I believe these are great examples of how careful we need to be.

For now, it seems like Tempe is late to game in developing these kinds of solutions to the affordable housing battle. Time is ticking…

More Housing Needed in Tempe:

Most of us know that the demand for housing in Tempe won’t be going away in the future. ALL kinds of housing. In fact, Mayor Woods also mentioned that Tempe could see demand for another 70,000 residents in the next 10-12 years.

Aging in place is very common here in Tempe. Multiple councilmembers recognize that aging in place is an issue. In Tempe, we know that many people just don’t want to leave the city! We often see people sell a large home on a large lot and then buy a smaller home in the immediate area.

Affordability ranks high for people considering an Accessory Dwelling Unit. This article title Turning relatives into roommates makes some really good points.

Faced with ongoing housing affordability issues and rising childcare costs, we’re seeing parents and children becoming roommates again in later years as the ‘kids’ save up to purchase their own place, siblings moving near each other to pool childcare resources, and some even buying homes with family to split the financial burden and make homeownership a reality.

These discussions will continue, and I look forward to following along and participating. This is something that Tempe needs to look at very closely.

Thanks to the city for bringing this forward. Thanks also go out to all of the council members who have said they will actively participate in the discussions.

*Update: The City has added a “Frequently Asked Questions” section on their ADU webpage.

Nick Bastian
Nick Bastian
Nick Bastian is a 31 year veteran of the real estate industry and enjoys his career very much. Nick is always available to "talk shop" with anyone that may have real estate related questions. "Just Call Nick" at 602-803-NICK (6425) - he's glad to help. Nick can also be found over on Instagram and Twitter ( @NickbastianAZ ) or out and about in the community making friends and having some fun.

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