Accessory dwelling units were supposed to help ease the Twin Cities’ housing crunch. How’s that work
Updated: May 6, 2019
As homeowners in Minneapolis’ Longfellow neighborhood, Stephanie and Ross knew they needed to tear down their detached garage when they were expecting their first child about two years ago. The old structure was in bad shape and couldn’t meet their new needs for space with a child on the way.
But, in those early days of construction planning, the couple realized another issue with their property: Where could they comfortably host grandparents from out of town, now that their family is growing in size? That’s when they decided to build a new one-bedroom apartment on top of a future two-stall garage, making for a home-improvement project that felt like one for the benefits of two.
“For us to stay here (in Longfellow), we needed more room,” said Stephanie, standing in the apartment over the weekend. Crews on Friday had just finished the unit, which shares a lot with the family’s main residence and has a private entrance via an alley.
Dubbed an accessory dwelling unit (ADU), the new space is one of some 150 similar structures in Twin Cities’ neighborhoods that are mostly for single-family homes, according to the Family Housing Fund, a Twin Cities housing nonprofit. Since cities have passed ordinances permitting ADUs in recent years, property owners and city planners have touted the housing structures as a low-key solution to adding more housing without changing the look and feel of neighborhoods, or upsetting people who do not want taller or bigger houses near their own homes.
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The long and short of it is, "For Joe Slavec, owner of a Minneapolis construction company, the topic of ADUs is exhausting. He said he and other local construction businesses spend a lot of time talking about them with potential clients — and even sometimes do bids on projects — yet some 90 percent of plans don’t materialize because of the structure’s price."