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'Accessory dwelling units' could be coming to single-family neighborhoods in Cincinnati

Semi detached two storey/ double floor townhouse with front porch in Victoria, Canada.
Debbie Ann Powell/Getty Images
iStock Editorial
An Accessory Dwelling Unit could include a unit with a separate entrance attached to a single-family home, like this townhouse in Victoria, Canada.

A new type of housing could be popping up in your neighborhood if Cincinnati Council approves an ordinance announced Thursday.

Council Member Mark Jeffreys is proposing the measure to allow "accessory dwelling units," or ADUs, on properties with a single-family home.

An ADU could be attached to a home, like a basement or attic apartment, or could be a completely separate structure on the same property.

"ADUs give residents the choice of aging in place in their community," Jeffreys said. "These units are often naturally affordable, and allow for older residents to downsize in their own neighborhoods and their own houses."

Nicole Ware with AARP Ohio says the new reality is that people are living longer and retiring differently.

"That new reality calls for a new innovative approach to help shape our future," Ware said. "One like making accessory dwelling units an available option here in Cincinnati, it empowers older adults to choose how they live as they age."

RELATED: What does 'affordable' housing mean in Cincinnati?

Darrick Dansby, president of the Greater Cincinnati Realtors Association, says the change could help increase the city's low rate of Black home ownership.

The extra unit could be used for long- or short-term rentals.

"We often recommend to our members as well as our clients to purchase income producing property such as duplexes or triplexes, because sometimes that passive income is a difference between whether you can afford to make the leap into homeownership," Dansby said. "Accessory dwelling units, similar to duplexes, can provide extra income to propel someone into owning their own home."

A graphic showing the different types of Accessory Dwelling Unites: detached, attached, interior (upper level), interior (lower level), above garage, and garage conversion.

The property owner would have to live in either the main house or the accessory unit, or designate a "responsible party" to live there. ADUs would require registration with the city after construction, and renewal every other year.

The ordinance outlines rules for how large an ADU can be, plus other zoning regulations. An attached unit is currently allowed in multi-family zones, but not as a detached structure. The ordinance would allow ADUs in any form (attached or detached) in all areas where single-family homes are currently allowed.

The proposal is one of the first steps in land-use reform that the mayor's office and Council have been discussing since taking office over a year ago.

RELATED: How Cincinnati's residential tax abatement program works, and how it could soon change

The ordinance is also compatible with separate legislation making changes to residential tax abatements; adding an ADU would qualify for an abatement, plus the bonus for multiple units. That ordinance is still under consideration at Council.

Jeffreys says his office worked with city administration to discuss the idea with community members in several stakeholder meetings. There are more opportunities for input as the ordinance goes through levels of approval:

  • March 27: Public Engagement Meeting hosted by Invest in Neighborhoods (virtual via Microsoft Teams. Click here for a link to join the meeting)
  • March 28: Introduction in Council's Equitable Growth & Housing Committee (will be referred to the Cincinnati Planning Commission)
  • Late April: Staff conference through the Planning Commission
  • May 9: Planning Commission vote
  • June: Vote in Equitable Growth & Housing Committee (then in full Council, if approved in Committee)

See a summary of the proposed legislation below, followed by the full ordinance:

Local Government Reporter with a particular focus on Cincinnati; experienced journalist in public radio and television throughout the Midwest. Enthusiastic about: civic engagement, public libraries, and urban planning.