SANTA FE CHAMBER OF COMMERCE: Housing Advisory Group Report and Casita Information

Santa Fe Chamber of Commerce issued the following announcement on March 26.

Michael Loftin, Homewise and Mayor’s Working Group on Affordable Housing and Livable Neighborhoods

One of the recommendations of the Mayor’s Working Group on Affordable Housing and Livable Neighborhoods was to make it easier for homeowners to add a casita, also known as an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU). This objective could be accomplished with some relatively minor changes to the existing city code that covers ADUs. These changes include:

Increase flexibility of the parking requirements to better accommodate the needs of the casita and the surrounding neighborhood.

Currently the ordinance requires the addition of one parking space for new casitas under 1000 square feet and two spaces for casitas between 1000 and 1500 square feet. The parking space(s) must be built on-site even if there is adequate on-street parking to accommodate this need. We recommend retaining the existing requirement for the number of spaces while allowing the parking requirement to be on-site or on the street where the property is located. If a street currently allows for on-street parking, the on-street parking option would be allowed. If the street does not allow for on-street parking, the parking space(s) would need to be accommodated on-site.

This flexibility has several benefits to both the homeowner and the neighborhood. If on-street parking is available, the homeowner and the neighborhood benefit from preserving yard space and landscaping that would otherwise have to be paved over for a parking space. Allowing for on-street parking also preserves existing on street parking spaces that could be lost if a new curb cut is necessary to accommodate a new on-site parking space. In this scenario the homeowner would essentially be replacing an on-street parking space with an on-site space resulting in a loss of yard and landscaping for no gain in parking.

Allow existing neighborhood design guidelines to determine the design of the casita.

The current ADU ordinance requires that ADUs “shall be of the same architectural style” as the main house. Such a general, vague requirement allows for disparate interpretations of its meaning and can cause unnecessary confusion in its application. City code does not have this same standard for other buildings added to a property such as garages, non-residential studios, etc.

We recommend doing away with this requirement and instead allow existing neighborhood design requirements to determine the design of new casitas. Existing neighborhood design requirements include those required by a historic district, neighborhood covenants, zoning law, development plats, etc.

Allow for two-story casitas if already allowed in the neighborhood.

The city current ADU code limits casitas to one story, even if a neighborhood’s zoning and development restrictions allow for two stories. We recommend that a neighborhood’s current restrictions on the number of stories and building height determine what is allowed for casitas and eliminate the one-story restriction in the current ADU code.

Encourage the use of ADUs as long-term housing while discouraging their use as short-term rentals.

We believe casitas are a great way to provide affordable rental housing to those who live and work in Santa Fe. Casitas are an important alternative to large scale apartment complexes, providing low density housing that can enhance neighborhood livability. As such we should encourage casitas to be used for long-term rental housing while discouraging their use for short-term rentals.

The current ADU code allows homeowners to use their casita as a long-term rental only if the owner lives on the property. In order to encourage the availability of more small-scale long-term rental units, we recommend doing away with this requirement. This change would not only result in the availability of more small-scale rental units, it would also better accommodate the realities of the changing demands we all live with. For example, it is not unusual that we may need to move out of our home to take care of a sick parent. Under the existing requirement we would have to evict our long-term guest house tenant because we would no longer be living on the property. Eliminating the requirement that the homeowner must live on the property to rent their casita would better accommodate the changing needs of and demands on the homeowner.

On the other hand, we believe that we should discourage the use of casitas for short-term rentals and recommend that the ADU ordinance be changed to allow an ADU to be used for a short-term rental only if the homeowner lives on the property. This change would help to reduce the negative impact short-term rentals sometimes have on a neighborhood by requiring the owner to be present on the property thereby ensuring better monitoring and enforcement of the conduct of the short-term guests.

Why not just ban any ADU from being used as a short-term rental? First, there might be a negative, unintended consequence of such a policy. If short-term rentals are not allowed for casitas on properties where the owner lives on the property, other properties will be used for short-term rentals, only properties where the owner does not live on the property will be used as short-term rentals, probably single family homes. Arguably these short-term rentals could have a more negative effect on the neighborhood given there is no property owner living on the site who could monitor the conduct of the short-term guests. Second, the use of a casita as a short-term rental can be helpful to a homeowner in making ends meet when renting the casita to a longer-term tenant is not an option. For example, in a situation where the children of an elderly parent come to stay with the parent for a few days each month, the casita can be used as a short-term rental on the days the children are not visiting in order to help meet expenses.

We also recognize that short-term rentals represent a much larger issue than what can be addressed in the City’s ADU policy. Short-term rentals have taken long-term rentals off the market and, in some cases, have had adverse effects on neighborhoods. These broader issues must also be addressed and we are committed to working with the City on policies and strategies to address these issues.

Original source can be found here.

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