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April 18, 2024

ADU Laws and Regulations in Durham - 2024

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Overview of Accessory Dwelling Units in Durham

Accessory dwelling units (ADUs) are secondary housing units on the same property as a primary residence. In Durham, ADUs serve as an innovative approach to create affordable housing alternatives within the city. They can be attached to the main house or detached, such as a backyard cottage, and are often referred to as mother-in-law suites, granny flats, or carriage houses.

Durham's Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) specifies that:

  • ADUs must be subordinate in size to the principal dwelling.
  • A single-family residence may feature an ADU, attached or detached.
  • Combined heated square footage of the ADU must not exceed 1,200 square feet.

Durham embraces ADUs as they can offer homeowners the flexibility to address the need for additional living space while contributing to the diversity of housing options across the city.

Accessory dwelling units (ADUs) are secondary housing units located either within or separate from the primary residence, typically not exceeding 1,200 square feet in size. These units serve the purpose of providing affordable housing and additional living space, offering homeowners the opportunity to accommodate family members, generate rental income, or contribute to addressing housing shortages.

Residents of Durham may find that adding an ADU to their property can offer not only a potential source of income but also an opportunity to support family members, such as elderly parents, by keeping them close in a semi-independent living arrangement. The City of Durham's regulations align with a growing trend to utilize existing lots to meet diverse housing needs while maintaining community character.

Durham Zoning Regulations for ADUs in Durham

In Durham, the zoning regulations for Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) are specific and must adhere to the city's Unified Development Ordinance (UDO). Understanding these regulations is essential for compliance and successful ADU development within the city's residential zones.

Zoning District Requirements

ADUs are permitted within various zoning districts across Durham, contingent on meeting the standards outlined in the UDO. In particular, Residential Compact (RC) zones are notable for their inclusion of ADUs. Each zoning district has a set of unique requirements that dictate the size, placement, and number of ADUs allowed per lot.

Permitted Locations for ADUs

The City of Durham allows ADUs on the same lot as a principal dwelling, provided the location is subordinate in size and maintains the character of the existing residential neighborhood. ADUs can be constructed as either attached or detached structures, offering flexibility in their placement on the lot.

UDO and Zoning Compliance

Compliance with the Durham Unified Development Ordinance is a critical step in the ADU approval process. Prospective builders must ensure that their plans align with the most recent legislation effective January 1, 2024. Zoning compliance involves adhering to regulations concerning occupancy, design, parking, and setbacks, all of which contribute to the harmonious integration of ADUs within Durham's residential communities.

Specific ADU Guidelines in Durham

In Durham, the regulations for Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) are clearly outlined in the city's Unified Development Ordinance. These regulations include specific limitations on size and height, design and construction criteria, and a set process for site planning and obtaining building permits.

Maximum Size and Height Restrictions

Durham's UDO establishes clear maximum size and height limits for ADUs. The total heated square footage of the ADU cannot exceed 1,200 square feet when a primary dwelling has an accessory structure that is a duplex. The maximum height for a detached ADU is defined within the UDO, ensuring that the ADU remains subordinate to the primary structure. Regulations ensure that the scale of the accessory dwelling fits into the existing neighborhood while providing flexibility for both attached and detached options.

Design and Construction Standards

The design and construction of ADUs in Durham are held to specific standards to maintain the integrity of residential areas. This includes architectural compatibility with the main housing unit, ensuring unity in the appearance of both structures. Construction standards are comprehensive, addressing not just the aesthetics but also the safety, usability, and longevity of the ADUs. These design and construction standards are applied whether the ADU is attached to or detached from the primary structure.

Site Plan and Building Permit Process

A building permit is mandatory for any ADU construction in Durham. The process requires a detailed site plan that must be approved before construction can commence. This plan must include accurate depictions of the proposed ADU in relation to the main house, demonstrating compliance with all regulations, including setbacks, unit size, and height restrictions. The permit process is rigorous to ensure that all ADUs, whether they are granny flats, in-law suites, or other types of accessory structures, adhere to Durham's high standards for community development.

Homeowner Responsibilities and Requirements in Durham

When property owners in Durham adopt accessory dwelling units (ADUs) on their residential lots, they must comply with specific responsibilities to remain within the regulations. This governance ensures that the ADUs provide safe, sustainable, and lawful housing options.

Ownership and Occupancy Rules

Homeowners must understand that they have to both own and occupy the primary residence on the property where the ADU is located. They cannot rent out both units and live off-site. This regulation helps maintain neighborhood stability and ensures direct oversight of the ADU.

Maintenance and Repair

Regular maintenance and repair are vital to keep accessory dwellings safe and habitable. Homeowners are responsible for:

  • Ensuring structural integrity
  • Keeping electrical and plumbing systems functional

Neglecting these responsibilities can lead to safety hazards and code violations.

Building Codes and Safety Regulations

Durham mandates that all residential constructions including ADUs adhere to strict building codes and safety regulations. Homeowners must ensure:

  • Installation of sprinkler systems in certain ADUs
  • Compliance with local zoning laws

Failure to comply with these codes can result in fines and legal action. Stay informed about the Durham Unified Development Ordinance to understand the full scope of building requirements for ADUs.

Parking and Accessibility in Durham

In Durham, ADU regulations have evolved to improve the usability and integration of these units into the existing urban fabric. These changes specifically relate to how ADUs address parking and accessibility for inhabitants and guests.

Parking Space Provisions

Durham's approach toward parking space for Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) is notably flexible. No additional parking is required for an ADU, which allows homeowners to maximize the use of their property for housing rather than vehicle storage. This policy supports the development of backyard cottages and other types of ADUs without the burden of creating new parking spaces.

Accessibility and Guest Accommodations

Concerning accessibility, Durham's ordinances demonstrate inclusivity. There are no requirements for ADUs to provide parking specifically for guests, which simplifies the process for property owners who wish to offer a guest accommodation. The removal of mandatory parking regulations not only impacts the ease of development but also the overall accessibility to these units, as they may be located in proximity to public transit or in walkable areas.

Special Use Permits and Exceptions in Durham

In Durham, Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) are subject to certain regulations as stipulated by the Unified Development Ordinance (UDO). ADUs are secondary housing units on the same lot as a principal dwelling.

Special Use Permits are typically not needed for Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) linked with places of worship, regardless of whether the primary use has one. The regulation stipulates that if there are over 10 ADUs, a site plan review becomes mandatory; however, if there are 10 or fewer ADUs, no special use permit is required. This streamlined process facilitates homeowners and could potentially stimulate ADU development, addressing housing shortages and diversifying living options.

Density limits do not apply to Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs), granting homeowners the flexibility to utilize their properties without restrictions based on density regulations.

The Planning Department ensures that the creation of ADUs conforms to the size requirements as well; ADUs must be subordinate in size to the primary dwelling. This regulation upholds the character of neighborhoods while providing additional living spaces.

Other considerations for ADUs include:

  • Attachment: ADUs can be attached or detached from the primary dwelling.
  • Use Cases: Often referred to as carriage houses or mother-in-law suites.

For larger projects, a site plan review is necessary and must comply with the established protocols. However, the overall understanding is that the city facilitates the development of ADUs by streamlining the process and reducing the bureaucratic barriers typically associated with housing expansion.

Government and Community Relations in Durham

Durham's approach to accessory dwelling units (ADUs) involves multiple stakeholders with the goal of expanding housing options. The local government and private sector collaborate to align with the city’s housing affordability and density goals.

Durham City Council Initiatives

The Durham City Council actively engages in developing legislation to support the existence and construction of ADUs, viewing them as a critical component in addressing the city's housing shortage. Durham’s Unified Development Ordinance provides specific regulations that facilitate the integration of ADUs into residential neighborhoods, ensuring these units are subordinate in size to the principal dwelling and maintaining community aesthetics.

Public Works and Private Sector Collaboration

Collaboration between Durham’s Public Works and the private sector is essential in the implementation of ADU infrastructure. The city works closely with builders to ensure that the ADUs comply with all necessary regulations for safety, sustainability, and accessibility. Durham’s ADU Program demonstrates this partnership, offering a framework that encourages the development of ADUs that meet community needs.

Housing Affordability and Density Goals

To address the issue of housing affordability, Durham County and the City Council see ADUs as a strategic way to increase density without significantly altering the landscape of established neighborhoods. They aim to provide a variety of affordable housing units for different demographics, including seniors and people with disabilities. The local ordinances are constructed with this in mind, enabling homeowners to add independent and cost-effective living spaces on their properties.

Through these structured efforts, Durham forges a path towards a more inclusive and expansive housing market, recognizing the value of diverse dwelling options within its urban fabric.

Financing and Expansion in Durham

In Durham, homeowners considering the addition of an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) face financial considerations and have opportunities to enhance their properties. This section outlines financial assistance options for constructing ADUs and explores how existing properties can be expanded to accommodate these units.

Financial Assistance for Homeowners

For those interested in constructing an ADU, securing financing is a central concern. Homeowners may have to rely on personal savings or leverage equity in their principal residence to fund the project, as there are currently no specific loan or other financing options available for ADU construction in Durham. This financial challenge can be significant but is an important step in creating additional housing capacity on a given property.

Expansion Opportunities for Existing Properties

Durham's regulations present various opportunities for property expansion through ADUs. Properties developed with one or two primary dwelling units may add an ADU; this provides homeowners the chance to not only increase the value of their property but also to offer housing solutions for extended family members or earn additional income through rent. ADUs can be detached or attached to the principal dwelling, offering flexibility in design and use. However, these units must comply with zoning regulations, which stipulate that they remain subordinate in size to the primary dwelling.

Local Case Studies and Examples in Durham

This section provides specific insights into how Durham has implemented accessory dwelling units (ADUs), focusing on backyard cottages and garage conversions as well as detached ADUs. It underscores practical applications of the ordinances that govern accessory units within the region.

Backyard Cottages and Garage Conversions

In Durham, backyard cottages and garage conversions have found a niche as flexible living spaces that serve as an extension of single-family homes. A prominent example includes the transformation of existing garages into modern, livable units. These garage conversions typically contrast with the principal dwelling in size yet maintain a cohesive aesthetic with the main house.

Detached ADUs in Durham and Surrounding Areas

The landscape of Durham and its surrounding areas has welcomed the inclusion of detached ADUs, often sited as separate structures on the same lot as a single-family house. These units, popularly referred to as granny flats or backyard cottages, vary in design but share a common feature of being subordinate to the primary residence in scale and presence.

By examining these local applications - from urban backyard cottages to suburban detached ADUs - it's evident that Durham's approach to housing tackles both spatial creativity and regulatory compliance, fostering a diverse residential fabric.

Regional Context and Comparisons

The landscape of Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) regulations across different jurisdictions in North Carolina offers a diverse picture, highlighting contrasting approaches to urban development and housing affordability challenges. Durham's regulations find their context in the broader regional framework set by neighboring cities and towns, each with its own set of governing principles outlined in their respective Unified Development Ordinances.

Comparison with Raleigh

Durham's approach to ADUs under their Unified Development Ordinance is contrasted with Raleigh's regulations, which also permit ADUs but follow a distinct regulatory roadmap. While Durham explicitly defines ADUs and their constraining parameters—being subordinate in size to the primary dwelling—Raleigh similarly allows for both attached and detached ADUs but differs in the specific requirements and permissions. For example, the lot coverage and set-back requirements are particular points of divergence, impacting the ease and feasibility with which homeowners can add ADUs to their properties.

ADU Regulations in Hillsborough and Chapel Hill

Hillsborough and Chapel Hill, adjacent to Durham, provide additional context. Hillsborough's regulations encapsulate a smaller town's response to housing needs, with a focus on maintaining its historical character, which influences its ADU policies. Chapel Hill, heavily influenced by its university-town status, employs ADU regulations that aim to balance student housing demands with residential integrity, often leading to a strategic permitting process that weighs various community factors. These municipalities ensure ADU construction aligns with broader heritage conservation goals and neighborhood aesthetics, setting them apart from Durham's more streamlined approach.

Professional Resources and Contacts

When looking to build an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) in Durham, knowing whom to contact and where to find professional assistance is crucial. Below are the key resources including the planning department and certified general contractors to guide through the regulatory process and construction phase.

Durham Planning Department Contact Information

The City-County Planning Department is the first point of contact for ADU regulations and approvals. It oversees land use and zoning, provides guidelines, and processes applications for ADU development. Here is the essential contact information:

List of Certified General Contractors

To ensure the construction of an ADU meets the local codes and standards, selecting a certified general contractor is vital. The following is a list of certified general contractors in Durham qualified to work on ADU projects:

  1. ABC Constructions, reachable at 919-555-0198, specializes in sustainable and accessible building designs, holding license number #1234GC.
  2. XYZ Builders, available at 919-555-0274, specializes in modern and energy-efficient Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) and holds license number #5678GC.

For a comprehensive list of certified general contractors visit the City-County Inspections Department or call the offices at 919-560-4144 for further assistance.

Legal Framework and Future Amendments in Durham

Durham, NC has seen significant changes in its approach to Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs), reflecting the city's commitment to evolving housing needs and state law compliance.

Recent Amendments to ADU Laws

In Durham, the Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) has undergone recent amendments to better align with state law. For instance, previous requirements for owner-occupancy clashed with state law, as highlighted in a North Carolina Court of Appeals case (City of Wilmington v. Broadus E. Hill, III), leading to an approved text amendment that removed this requirement. Additionally, a 2017 amendment eradicated the need for dedicated parking for ADUs, simplifying the process for homeowners and developers.

Anticipated Changes in Regulations and Policies

Looking ahead, the Durham City Council is actively engaging with public participation to discuss potential amendments to UDO regulations. Such pending text amendments are focused on regulatory measures that would affect development across the city and county, aspiring to serve the health, safety, and welfare of all residents. Discussions and proposals for future changes are shaped by continual input from community stakeholders and reflect Durham’s growing needs in housing and urban development.

Frequently Asked Questions

Navigating the laws and regulations for accessory dwelling units (ADUs) in Durham can be complex. This section provides clear and concise answers to common inquiries about the ADU permitting process, local ordinances, and requirements.

What steps must be taken to secure a permit for an ADU in Durham?

To secure a permit for an ADU in Durham, applicants must submit a site plan for review that complies with zoning and Unified Development Ordinance requirements. They should also expect to pass building inspections to ensure safety and code adherence.

How does the Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) impact ADU construction in Durham?

The Unified Development Ordinance defines specific guidelines for ADU construction in Durham, such as location, size, and design standards. Compliance with the UDO is mandatory for all ADU developments in the city.

What are the size and design restrictions for ADUs in Durham, NC?

ADUs in Durham must be subordinate in size to the principal dwelling and are subject to design standards that maintain the character of the existing neighborhood.

Are there any specific zones in Durham where ADUs are prohibited or encouraged?

ADUs are generally encouraged across residential zones in Durham, but the zoning ordinance should be referenced for specifics on areas where ADUs might be restricted due to lot size or other factors.

What are the parking requirements for accessory dwelling units in Durham?

Parking requirements for ADUs in Durham typically include the provision of at least one off-street parking space, though variations can occur based on the specific characteristics of the neighborhood and the principal residence.

Can I build a tiny home as an ADU on my property in Durham, NC?

Tiny homes may be considered ADUs in Durham as long as they meet the standards set by the Unified Development Ordinance regarding size, design, and placement on the property.

This post is for informational purposes only and does not serve as legal, financial, or tax advice. Consult your own legal, financial, or tax advisor for matters mentioned here. The information on this site is general in nature. Any description of coverage is necessarily simplified. Whether a particular loss is covered depends on the specific facts and the provisions, exclusions and limits of the actual policy. Nothing on this site alters the terms or conditions of any of our policies. You should read the policy for a complete description of coverage. Coverage options, limits, discounts, deductibles and other features are subject to individuals meeting our underwriting criteria and state availability. Not all features available in all states. Discounts may not apply to all coverages. Steadily is not liable for any actions taken based on this information. If you believe any of this information may be inaccurate please contact us.

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