All the things you didn’t know you wanted to know about ADUs in Central Florida

Our readers sent in some great questions about our affordable housing crisis in Central Florida and the region’s quest to provide attainable housing for all. Over the summer, we’ll be digging into each of them. 

We’re starting with reader Ashley Z.’s question about accessory dwelling units. 

“How could one go about living in an ADU (and finding a property owner willing to host you)?”

We’ll answer this question in two parts (because it’s a little tricky). We’ll start by defining what is meant by ADU and share our current laws surrounding them.

First things first: what even is an ADU? An ADU (accessory dwelling unit) is “a self-contained residential unit that shares the same lot as the primary residential dwelling. It generally includes a living room, sleeping area, kitchen and bathroom and is subordinate in size, location and appearance to the main home on the property.” 

What do ADUs have to do with affordable housing? The goal of ADUs is to allow more long-term access to affordable housing, not just to add extra income to a homeowner’s wallet, whether through Airbnb or by renting out your garage apartment, though that’s definitely a perk.

The benefits of an ADU are far-reaching. They promote diversity by providing more affordable housing in otherwise costly neighborhoods and allowing individuals access to single-family neighborhoods. They also provide affordable places to live for in-laws, grown children, and members of the local workforce and the number of environmental benefits go without saying. 

What are our laws on ADUs? Short answer, they vary greatly across the board. For example, there are different types of ADUs, those that are attached to the main building and those that aren’t. There are regulations on maximum size, location, and available parking. Plus, even stipulations on who is allowed to occupy the ADU. You can find the breakdown of all that here

What’s up next for ADUs? Great question. The Orange County Board of County Commissioners met back in June to entertain potential Comprehensive Plan and code changes that would “reduce barriers that prevent ADU’s from being built.” 

This call for change to ADUs is a result of Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings’ Housing for All task force that launched earlier this year. It’s a group of 38 city officials, thought-leaders, and community members tasked with finding short- and long-term solutions to the affordable housing crisis the county faces. 

The task force is specifically looking to revise the county codes to create more affordable housing options. 

What are the suggested code changes for ADUs? There are more than a few. The task force is looking to expand ADUs and to relax on some of the current restrictions on them.

One of the proposed changes would increase the max. living area to 50 percent of the primary dwelling. Just last year, the county removed the requirement of an extra parking space for units that 500 sq. feet or less. 

Finally, to answer the second part of Ashley’s question, “how do you find a property owner willing to host you?” What Ashley is specifically referring to is a tiny home, another form of an ADU. And in 2016, Rockledge was actually one of the hotter places to be for tiny homes. Now there’s Orlando Lakefront, a neighborhood of trendy tiny homes off OBT in College Park

For now, Osceola County and Longwood are good places for those looking to live in a tiny home, but Orange County may not be far off, as changing the rules around tiny homes has also been talked about by the task force.

All this to say, the future of ADUs looks … bright? While progressive areas throughout the country (read: Portland/California) have already begun relaxing some zoning issues and cutting permit fees in support of ADU’s, Orange County and Central Florida aren’t too far behind — or at least we hope. 

Wanna stay informed on the changes? The board is tentatively scheduled to have a public hearing for the code changes on September 24 and October 22, while the next Comp Plan public hearing takes place November 12 (adoption).

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