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ADUs Destroying Community

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Comment: Thank you Martin Armstrong to take time to write on 15 min cities and accessory dwelling units or the ADUs. I must reach out and ask you to share my personal story on how ADU is destroying my once charming neighborhood. I believe everyone should have access to shelter, and I do not want these people on the streets. My heart goes out to those without and I felt bad for their situations until I witnessed what permitting legal squatting brought. Permitting people to live in huts in the backyard is not the solution as I have seen firsthand over the last year or so.

A few of my neighbors built ADUs units behind their homes. They built them themselves and they look like tiny wooden sheds and are eyesores. How anyone can manage to live there is beyond me, as they have less space than most garages. All the renters are single men without consistent employment who probably would not qualify for an apartment since they do not seem to be going to work but lurk around the neighborhood instead. Strange men are scattered around my neighborhood and their friends are not the type of people I would want in my town. One man died inside his unit from drugs. My neighbor replaced him with a new renter within the month, another single man who lurks around. I have a teenage daughter and two little ones. I was never worried about their safety in this neighborhood, but there is now riff-raff in this neighborhood and I do not feel safe. My husband will not let them play outside alone. The people who believe these shelters are a solution are mistaken.

Reply: Your concerns seem valid. Depending on the zoning laws in your area, anyone can build and rent out an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU). There are no requirements for the tenants or background checks. The shelters themselves need only be 375 sq ft and may not exceed 40% of the primary property’s floor area or 1,000 sq ft.

Proponents of these shelters say they are a great way to assist family members, but that is not the intention. I personally would not allow my family members to live in a shed outside my primary residence. The fact of the matter is that these units largely do not look or function as “in-law suites.” People are becoming desperate for additional income in this economy, and renting out a sliver of their land is now an option. Primary homeowners are also now qualifying for loans to build these structures, and contractors specializing in ADUs are becoming commonplace. In Florida, for example, many cities require ADUs to be rented out by low-income individuals. Again, they do not need to pass a background check or register with any agency. You must ask yourself who would want to live in these conditions.

So you are correct in your fears that anyone could be living in those units. Your neighbors cannot easily evict a tenant once they move in as they are now protected by tenant rights. These men could have used a fake name or identification (neither are requirements) and your own neighbor may not know who is living on their property. They do not need to be citizens of the United States either.

It is up to individual counties and cities to prohibit these ADUs, which are simply a step above homelessness. They will lower the neighborhood’s value as no one wants this sort of thing in their community. I am sorry you have to deal with this situation that is spreading across the Build Back Better countries.