Can Accessory Dwelling Units Help Meet Our Region’s Housing Needs?

On 4 October 2018, PlanNH and Vital Communities sponsored a talk titled, Can Accessory Dwelling Units Help Meet Our Region’s Housing Needs? at the Kilton Library, in West Lebanon NH.

The primary speaker was Kol Peterson from Portland Oregon. He has published many books/resources on the subject of Accessory Dwelling Units: http://BuildingAnADU.com, https://accessorydwellings.org, and Backdoor Revolution.

His answer is a strong, YES. Primary drivers for people to create an ADU:

  • Rental income
  • Flexible space for intergenerational use
  • Age in place

Why are ADUs valuable for a municipality?

  • 75% of 2018 households have 1-2 people
  • In major cities, 35-45% of households have a single person
  • But they have no option but to purchase a large single family home
  • Average home: 1950 – ~950sf; 2018 – ~2600 sf
  • Small homes cost less to build, and have HUGE energy savings
  • A huge benefit of additional housing using existing homes with minimal impact to the town/streetscape.

Parking: In Portland OR, the US city with greatest penetration (1%), ADUs have no observable effect on parking. (A municipality only needs to find space for one additional car per hundred homes.)

The Finances: ADUs (like all construction projects) are expensive to build, therefore, breakeven has multi-year payback:

  • 250sf => $100K
  • 600sf => $200K
  • 750sf => $150K to $300K

ADU Construction is not financially viable for ordinary developers who want to “build-and-flip”:

  • Doesn’t improve the value of the property enough to make up for the $100k-300K construction cost.
  • But… rental income breaks even over 5-10 years (depending on construction cost and market)
  • Attractive for people who plan to stay in the neighborhood for 20-30 years

Financing is hard: must rely on home equity line of credit, savings, cash out of liquid assets, family, sweat equity (often 50% of cost)

Takeaway: Given the difficulties of building anything (brainstorming, finding an architect, talking with the neighbors, schematics and design, etc) and the modest financial returns, ANY limits of permitting and zoning regulations discourage people from developing ADUs. There is a good discussion in the slides. Another example of a disincentive, the State of NH requires an attached ADU to have a connecting door.

Furthermore, many laws/ordinance/regulations require owner-occupied ADUs. This is also a disincentive, for the following reasons:

  • Appraisers will undervalue because of deed restriction, therefore may not be able to refinance
  • Lenders cannot (by definition) owner-occupy, so may choose not lend
  • Affordable housing NGOs cannot occupy, so may not fund either
  • The requirement places a significant restriction if the owner needs to move
  • Why wouldn’t owner simply build an un-permitted ADU?
  • No cities have seen large number of ADUs, so it’s not a practical problem
  • Finally, what other property type in the US has this requirement?

However, certain restrictions are not unreasonable:

  • Regulations limiting ADU to 750-800sf are not an important restriction because ADUs are designed for secondary home/smaller unit
  • Regulations preventing ADU from being subdivided is not important restriction

What about people who use ADUs as Short Term Rentals?

  • There’s no data on the trends
  • If it is becoming a problem, decouple ADU reg’s from ST rental reg’s – they’re not the same thing.

Slides: https://vitalcommunities.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/Kol-Peterson-Slides-Lebanon-NH-Oct-2018.pdf

Video: https://www.facebook.com/bmlgreenguy/videos/vb.1523616449/10217649924829603/

Sponsors: Vital Communities – Workforce Housing and PlanNH


Feel free to share this post on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, or email by clicking one of the icons below. Any opinions expressed here are solely my own, and not those of any public bodies, such as the Lyme Planning Board, to which I may belong. I would be very interested to hear your thoughts – you can reach me at richb.lyme@gmail.com.

Jetpack Publicize: Setting the image and text shown on Twitter and Facebook

I use Jetpack Publicize to share my posts on Facebook and Twitter. This makes it easy to create a single WordPress post and have it show up on social media sites. Those services automatically use the Featured Image of the WordPress post, plus an excerpt of the title/text.

There’s another cool feature: Facebook and Twitter will include a photo and text summary for your site whenever someone types your URL into their post on Facebook and Twitter.

But… It can be tricky to figure out how Facebook/Twitter retrieve the image and the text. (I started this quest because Facebook was choosing the wrong image for the thumbnail. I found my first clue by reading WP Beginner’s article How to fix Facebook Incorrect Thumbnails.) This led to the debugging techniques below.

Both Facebook and Twitter use Open Graph metatags to find the desired image, text, title, etc.  Jetpack automatically sets these OpenGraph meta-tags: og:image tag, og:title, and og:description. It also automatically inserts tags for Twitter: twitter:text:title and twitter:description.

To see what those services will display, each has a Debugger/Validator. To use them, go to the page below and type in your URL.

Facebook Validator: https://developers.facebook.com/tools/debug/sharing/
Twitter Card Validator: https://cards-dev.twitter.com/validator

Problem:  Jetpack automatically sets the OpenGraph tags, but sometimes it chooses values that are not useful, and they cannot be modified within Jetpack. (At least, Jetpack support could not tell me how to set them.)

Update: Using Jetpack 7.3.1 and Yoast 11.3, the conflict between these two plugins appears to have gone away. But this note still describes useful debugging techniques for Facebook and Twitter. (31May2019)

Solution – Part 1: The Yoast SEO plugin – I use the free version – also lets you set the Open Graph tags for both Facebook and Twitter. (In addition, I really like how it helps to optimize my text for search engines.) However, Yoast and Jetpack’s Open Graph tags interfere with each other.

Solution – Part 2: This is a little bit yucky, but you can disable Jetpack’s OpenGraph tags with a bit of code in your child theme’s functions.php file, as described in Remove Jetpack’s Open Graph meta tags This is no longer required – see Update above.

TL;DR: (Too Long; Didn’t Read)

 

RandomNeuronsFiring.com – now live!

I have reworked my blog so that the primary domain name is “Random Neurons Firing” (instead of the pedestrian richb-hanover.com). Same content, but a better name.

I’m also adding a new topic to those I’ve previously covered (“Software, Networking, Life”). Over the last two years, I have gone to many planning and zoning conferences to learn more about how to provide attractive housing within communities. I’ll post my notes from those conferences and workshops here. I need to note that these will be my own opinions, and not those of any public boards to which I might belong.


Feel free to share this post on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, or email by clicking one of the icons below. Any opinions expressed here are solely my own, and not those of any public bodies, such as the Lyme Planning Board, to which I may belong. I would be very interested to hear your thoughts – you can reach me at richb.lyme@gmail.com.

Spring 2019 Business Leaders Housing Breakfast

On May 3, 2019, I attended the Spring 2019 Business Leaders Housing Breakfast sponsored jointly by Vital Communities  and Twin Pines Housing. Twice a year, these groups bring together a group of speakers to address questions about housing. I have included links to the three presentations. Here are my takeaways:

Bennington Healthy Homes 

Kevin Dailey of Southwestern Vermont Health Care (SVHC) described how potential employees have trouble finding housing close to the hospital and consequently endure a long commute. SVHC established a program to acquire abandoned homes that are not economically viable as a commercial renovation. They then upgrade the homes so that there will be no major expense for 10 years, then pay the closing costs for an employee to purchase. They expect to spend about $25,000 per home. They have done four homes so far.

Woodstock Housing Initiative

Jill Davies spoke about how Woodstock Community Trust established a program to help moderate income people live in Woodstock, Vermont. They point out the need by asking these questions:

  • Who’s saving your life?
  • Who’s teaching your kids?
  • Who’s cooking your food?
  • Can they live in your community?
The Housing Initiative is about to sell their first home, working with Twin Pines Housing to help home buyers using a model developed on Martha’s Vineyard:
  • A buydown program, where the initiative puts up the down-payment, mortgage insurance, closing costs, to help a person who can afford the monthly payments, but doesn’t have the cash for up-front costs
  • They make structural repairs and fix major appliances, to avoid big bills in the first three years

Upper Valley Real Estate Update

In their semi-annual review of real estate housing trends, Buff McLaughry of Four Seasons Sotheby’s International Realty and Lynne LaBombard of LaBombard Peterson Real Estate LLC gave these highlights:
  • They consider the Upper Valley to have 69 towns, about 187,000 population, and 87,000 jobs.
  • Affordable housing is a core component of community health. If housing isn’t readily available, the community is suffers.
  • Rental property across the Upper Valley have less than 3% vacancy (very low), this is down about 10% from a year ago.
  • The commute to jobs has not changed much in the last year, but remains high at about 45 minutes.
  • Number of home sales has remained roughly constant over the last year, but inventory has changed:
    • Homes below $300K: inventory is strongly down – hardly any are available
    • Homes between $300K and $600K: down, less available
    • Homes above $600K: about the same, or slightly higher inventory


Feel free to share this post on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, or email by clicking one of the icons below. Any opinions expressed here are solely my own, and not those of any public bodies, such as the Lyme Planning Board, to which I may belong. I would be very interested to hear your thoughts – you can reach me at richb.lyme@gmail.com.