Denver could allow ADUs on all residential properties across the city

ADUs have been touted as a potential housing solution.
3 min. read
Peggy Johns’ home (left) and new ADU in Westwood. May 31, 2023.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) could be coming to residential areas all across Denver as part of an effort to expand housing in the city. 

Mayor Mike Johnston launched a formal program pushing for citywide ADUs on Monday, while Denver City Council has spent years working to amend the city’s zoning code.

ADUs are currently legislated on a neighborhood by neighborhood basis, and in recent years, Councilmembers have rezoned a number of areas including Athmar Park, Valverde and Regis. But in other areas like Montclair, disinterest from residents has stopped potential rezoning plans.

Like many other cities across the country, decades-old zoning restrictions on growth and density continue to fuel Denver’s housing crisis and delay potential solutions like ADUs. 

Currently, many residents have to face zoning backlogs at the city and must go before Council to get their property individually rezoned for an ADU. The more costs and burdens there are to build an ADU, the less likely a property owner is to go through the process. The recent push to allow ADUs in residential areas citywide could clear one of those barriers for property owners.

In June of 2023, Denver City Council amended its zoning code to make it easier to build ADUs. The new project would take that effort even further.

“I’m delighted to see the Citywide ADUs project kick off,” Johnston said in a statement Monday. “We know that the rezoning process can be cumbersome and expensive, limiting Denverites' ability to create their own affordable housing. One of our top priorities for the year is to build or preserve 3,000 units of affordable housing, and making it easier for neighbors to build ADUs is a great first step.” 

At the state level, some legislators want to force cities statewide to ease up on ADU zoning as a way to respond to the housing crisis. A state bill could provide $18 million statewide to help with ADU development.

But forced rezoning to promote housing has also faced opposition, both in Denver and across the state. Proponents of ADUs tout it as a form of “gentle density,” which slowly adds more housing to a neighborhood without massive changes. Opponents of ADUs often cite limited parking and increased traffic as reasons to block their development.

Any zoning changes would have to go through City Council. 

The Mayor’s office said it plans to bring legislation before Council this summer. 

In Monday’s statement, Councilmembers Darrell Watson, Chris Hinds and Sarah Parady expressed support for and sponsorship of the proposal. 

"Denver's housing crisis demands action,” Hinds said. “This legislation cuts red tape, promoting gentle density citywide to address the issue. I'm proud to co-sponsor this important bill."

Denverites can weigh in on the ADU proposal online.

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