The full City Council will be taking a vote on the proposed Accessory Apartment ordinance at tonight’s meeting.
30 years ago the city first passed an Accessory Apartment ordinance to allow homeowners to legally reconfigure their owner-occupied houses to create apartments for family members or others. 30 years ago the motivations were the same – i.e. to allow residents to take care of family members, to provide additional smaller cheaper housing in the city, to allow elderly residents to have caregivers on site, or to provide supplemental income.
30 years ago, the originally proposed ordinance was effectively gutted with a long series of amendments and restrictions, largely at the behest of the Chestnut Hill constituency and Alderman Baker. The final ordinance that emerged back then was a failure. Over the last 30 years remarkably few legal accessory apartments were ever created. The crux of the problem was that all of the restrictions effectively limited Accessory Apartments to only the biggest pieces of property in the city,in a few neighborhoods -.i.e “nanny flats” not “granny flats”
Meanwhile the ordinance effectively ruled out accessory apartments in whole swatches of the city. The result was predictable. Large numbers of unregulated, illegal apartments were created instead.
Here we are thirty years later and it’s “deja vu all over again”. The Chestnut Hill neighborhood has been very actively speaking out against the ordinance once again. City Councilor Baker has once again been a vehement opponent and has been working at each step of the process to once again include a long list of amendments that would effectively gut the proposed law.
Tonight’s the final vote by the full board. As I understand it, Councilor Baker will once again be proposing and arguing for a series of amendments. It’s expected to be a long night.
I hope this time around the council can avoid the “death by 1000 cuts” fate for the ordinance and not repeat the same mistake again. It’s time to allow Accessory Apartments in all neighborhoods in the city. The need for them are not just limited to the biggest properties or the wealthiest property owners.
Read more in commentary by Mike Brown in the Tab.