New ADU numbers for Salt Lake City show improvement coming in 2021

After being passed for city-wide application in 2018, Salt Lake City’s accessory dwelling unit (ADU) ordinance has produced all of – wait for it – six units.

Those are the numbers for 2019 and 2020. Many more are in the pipeline – 31 to be completed in 2021 – says the Planning Division’s 2020 ADU Report.

The report was transmitted to the City Council office earlier this month. Required annually by the 2018 ordinance, this is the report’s second year.

The numbers

Despite those rather dismal figures, 31 ADUs added in 2021 would be close to a 1000% increase over the previous year. 

The amount of applications was flat between 2019 and 2020: 33 in 2019, 34 in 2020. The number of projects that complete the process and get built is much smaller. This is not due to rejection of conditional use applications – all 40 in 2020 were approved by the Planning Commission. This map shows the geographic distribution of applications received by the city:

ADU applications in the city. 33 in 2019, 34 in 2020. Image courtesy SLC Planning Division.

All ADU applications in single-family zones have to go through the conditional use process. Of those projects in 2020, five were internal, 19 were detached, and six were above garages. 20 of those were 1-bdrm units, and four were 2-bdrm.

Recommendations in the report

The report recognizes that ADUs are currently not contributing to alleviating the city’s housing shortage. ADUs have only been built on 0.15% of the city’s 44,000 single-family residential lots.

To change that, city planners offer numerous suggestions: 

•Setting numerical targets for ADU construction each year

•Removing or reducing zoning barriers. Among “key zoning barriers” are the conditional use process, owner-occupancy requirements, code on entrances, windows, mandatory parking, and setbacks

•Modifying fees

•Offering pre-approved plan templates that would be able to bypass city plan review

The city has already taken a step in the streamlining direction – the City Council approved in February off-site inspections for modular and factory-built ADUs.

You can read the report here.

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Posted by Luke Garrott

Luke Garrott, PhD, has published in The Salt Lake Tribune and the Deseret News, and written features for the Salt Lake City Weekly City Guide and The West View. A former two-term councilman in Salt Lake City's District 4, he lives in Downtown Salt Lake City and grew up in the Chicago area.