Accessory Dwelling Units

provided by AARP Opens in new windowAccessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) refers to a secondary housing unit or apartment that exists on the same property as a single-family residence, either attached or detached from the primary residence (see image). These dwellings are commonly used for housing an adult child, aging parent(s), or for property owners to make supplemental income by renting out the unit. In nearly all cases, the ADU is a dwelling that is smaller than the principal home, differentiating this housing type from a true duplex or twin home.

Golden Valley and the greater Twin Cities region are facing two challenges regarding housing stock.

  • First, the region is experiencing a shortage in all types of housing, which has contributed to increased costs when buying a home. ADUs can offer young adults and couples the chance to rent in Golden Valley and experience amenities of living in a single-family neighborhood while saving money for a future mortgage and down payment.
  • Second, according to census data, residents over age 65 make up more than 20 percent of Golden Valley’s population. For some seniors, a single-family home no longer fits their lifestyle or health needs, but they prefer to remain in the communities where they have built relationships with family and neighbors. ADUs offer a unique alternative to larger, assistive housing options for seniors who want to stay in Golden Valley. 

Given the overall housing crunch and a lack of options for seniors, the City of Golden Valley is exploring its zoning code for opportunities to address these two issues. One option, identified in the City’s 2040 Comprehensive Plan and seen in other communities, is the reintroduction of ADUs.

  1. Opportunities

While ADUs are only one small tool in addressing the City’s housing needs, they can fill a number of niches that cannot be met by other types of development.

New Housing Opportunities

Given the cost to build, ADUs will not be a way of tackling the City’s goals around affordable housing targeted at households making less than 50 percent of Area Median Income. However, ADUs can have the following impact for specific types of households:

  • The opportunity to rent in one of Golden Valley’s single-family neighborhoods could be a more affordable option for a young couple given the rising cost of homes in the metro, allowing them to enjoy the amenities of living in a single-family neighborhood while they save for a mortgage and down payment.
  • Renting an ADU could be the type of supplemental income that helps ease the cost burden of a mortgage on the property owners themselves.
  • Building an ADU for a family member to move into opens up the main structure for children with growing families who might not otherwise be able to afford living in the area.

Aging In Place

One of the principal concerns the City hears from residents over age 60 is the ability to stay in Golden Valley, and preferably in the neighborhoods where they have built relationships over time. While the City will continue to pursue senior housing opportunities at higher densities, these types of facilities have their trade-offs, and demographic data suggests that the City simply can’t keep up with its aging population.

ADUs offer a unique alternative to larger and assistive housing options for seniors who want to stay in Golden Valley. Building an ADU can allow a parent to pass their home on to a family member while living adjacent to them for caregiving. An ADU can even be designed for single-level living or lower maintenance, with the parent’s needs in mind. Alternately, the new ADU could be a dwelling unit for a live-in nurse or other caregiver while maintaining some privacy in their living arrangement.

The ADU option is still expensive to build and is a front-loaded cost, compared with an assistive living facility that charges a monthly or annual fee. However, the option to remain in their Golden Valley neighborhood allows seniors to remain independent and amongst people they may have build friendships with.

  1. challenges
  1. Share Feedback
  1. Additional Resources