Laws
March 26, 2024

ADU Laws and Regulations in Tucson - 2024

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Overview of ADU Laws in Tucson

In Tucson, Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) have become an integral part of the city's housing strategy. The City Council and Mayor and Council have adopted amendments to the Unified Development Code to address the growing demand for ADUs.

Zoning Regulations in Tucson provide clear directives for ADU construction. An ADU can be constructed on any residential lot containing one or two homes. Listed below are key aspects of the ADU ordinance:

  • Maximum Size: An ADU may occupy up to 10% of the lot size, with an upper limit of 1,000 square feet. All lots can support an ADU no smaller than 650 square feet.
  • Height Restrictions: The height limit for an ADU is 12 feet or equivalent to the height of the main dwelling, whichever is less.

For detailed zoning laws and dimensional standards, individuals can refer to Pima County's regulations which pave the way for several residential uses, including ADUs.

In terms of location, ADUs are permissible in zones that allow for residential uses. These regulations are designed to foster a variety of housing options in the city and provide flexibility in addressing the needs of Tucson's diverse population.

With the intention to facilitate a smooth process for homeowners and developers, the city has outlined these guidelines within its comprehensive ADU ordinance. The objective is to offer additional living spaces without compromising the character of existing neighborhoods in Tucson.

ADU Size and Lot Requirements in Tucson

In Tucson, regulations surrounding Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) are specific about both the lot size requirements and the dimensional standards of the units. These guidelines ensure ADUs complement existing structures and neighborhood character.

Lot Size Considerations

Lot size is a determining factor for ADU construction in Tucson. For MH-1 zoned parcels, the size must be greater than 10,890 square feet, whereas MH-2 zoned parcels should exceed 5,808 square feet. For Office and Commercial zones, density and minimum lot size requirements must be met. It is permissible to build an ADU on any lot that contains single and two-family residential units within city limits.

ADU Dimensional Standards

The size of an ADU in Tucson is proportional to the primary residence and the lot it occupies. An ADU must not exceed 50% of the primary structure's size; however, in R-1 zoning, one dwelling must be at least 25% smaller than the other. The maximum size for an ADU is generally 10% of the lot size, capped at 1,000 square feet, with a minimum ADU size requirement of 650 square feet. When it comes to height, the maximum allowable height is 12 feet or the height of the primary residence, whichever is less. These standards are crucial for maintaining the balance between additional housing and neighborhood aesthetics, as stated in the Accessory Dwelling Units Code Amendment provided by the City of Tucson.

Design and Building Standards in Tucson

In Tucson, the design and construction of Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) must adhere to specific standards geared toward sustainability, space utilization, and neighborhood consistency. These regulations ensure not only the safety and quality of ADUs but also their environmental impact.

Materials and Construction

The City of Tucson prescribes the use of durable materials for the construction of ADUs. Builders must comply with the existing building codes which emphasize safety, durability, and compatibility with the main residence. This includes appropriate structural framing, electrical, plumbing, and finishing work that meets the city's safety and quality standards.

Sustainability and ‘Cool Roof’ Requirements

To promote environmental sustainability, Tucson's ADU regulations encourage the use of eco-friendly materials and designs. One specific initiative is the ‘Cool Roof’ requirement, which helps to reduce heat absorption by reflecting more sunlight than a standard roof. This lowers the temperature of the dwelling, thereby reducing energy costs and the urban heat island effect.

Cool roof standards entail two main criteria: high solar reflectance and high thermal emittance. High solar reflectance refers to the roof's ability to reflect a significant portion of the sunlight that hits it, reducing the amount of heat transferred into the building and thereby lowering cooling costs. High thermal emittance, on the other hand, indicates the roof's capacity to release absorbed heat efficiently, further contributing to the building's energy efficiency by minimizing heat retention. These standards aim to promote energy savings, reduce urban heat island effects, and enhance the sustainability of buildings.

Height and Setbacks

ADUs in Tucson are subject to height and setback requirements to maintain consistency within neighborhoods and to respect the privacy of adjacent properties. The maximum height for ADUs is 12 feet or the height of the existing primary dwelling, whichever is less. Adequate setbacks from property lines are mandatory and vary depending on the zoning of the specific lot.

Setback guidelines for building construction typically include front, side, and rear setback requirements. The front setback is generally determined by the existing setback of the residential structure on the property. For side and rear setbacks, a minimum distance of 5 feet from the property lines is often mandated. These guidelines are in place to ensure adequate space between buildings, promote safety, maintain neighborhood aesthetics, and allow for necessary access and ventilation around structures.

By adhering to these design and building standards, Tucson ensures that ADUs are safe, sustainable, and integrated additions to the city's diverse neighborhoods.

Ownership and Usage Regulations in Tucson

In Tucson, ownership and usage regulations for Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) have specific requirements that homeowners must follow. These regulations are designed to maintain property standards and control the integration of accessory structures within residential areas.

Homeowner Occupancy

In Tucson, ADUs must be on the same lot as the homeowner's primary residence, ensuring that the owner occupies one of the units. This requirement is in place to maintain neighborhood character and ensure the property is well-maintained. Tucson's approach to ADUs focuses on long-term residency rather than short-term rentals.

Rental Agreements and Airbnb

While homeowners may lease their ADUs, regulations distinguish between long-term tenancy and short-term vacation rentals. Tucson currently allows ADUs to be used for long-term residential purposes, which can include leasing to tenants under standard rental agreements. However, short-term rentals, such as those listed on Airbnb, may be subject to separate city regulations and requirements, affecting how ADUs can be advertised and operated.

Parking and Accessibility in Tucson

In Tucson, the regulations regarding parking and accessibility for Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) aim to address concerns of adequate parking while maintaining ease of access for residents.

Parking Space Requirements

Each ADU must have at least one designated parking space. This requirement can be fulfilled utilizing either on-site or on-street parking solutions. In some instances, the parking space requirement may be waived, which typically depends on the ADU's proximity to transit options or bicycle boulevards. When on-street parking is used to satisfy this requirement, it may necessitate participation in the City’s Parking Permit program.

Impact on Local Traffic

The addition of ADUs and the corresponding need for additional parking spaces have the potential to affect local traffic patterns. The city’s regulations strive to mitigate any negative impact by carefully considering the placement and management of ADU-related parking spaces. However, the true influence on traffic will likely vary by neighborhood and be dependent on the density of ADUs and the adherence to existing zoning regulations.

Economic and Community Impact in Tucson

Tucson's implementation of Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) regulations carries significant implications for the city's housing economy and its communities. These regulations address affordable housing shortages, alter neighborhood population densities, and affect residential development costs through impact fees.

Affordable Housing Contributions

ADUs in Tucson are seen as potential means to increase affordable housing stock. The ability to add an ADU on a residential lot—permitted to be up to 10% of the lot size or a maximum of 1,000 square feet—creates opportunities for homeowners to provide lower-cost rental options compared to traditional single-family homes. This contributes to housing affordability by introducing more diverse price points within existing neighborhoods.

Population Density and Student Housing

The presence of ADUs can moderately increase the density of a community by adding livable units without the need for new land development. The University of Arizona, located in Tucson, compounds the demand for student housing. ADUs present a viable solution for students seeking off-campus living, thus affecting local neighborhoods by increasing the proportion of student residents.

Development Impact Fees

Impact fees are charges imposed by the city on new development to offset the cost of providing public services to new residents. For homeowners looking to build ADUs, understanding these fees is crucial as they directly affect the overall cost of development. While these fees contribute to necessary infrastructure, they can sometimes present a financial barrier to the creation of ADUs, counteracting efforts toward expanding affordable housing options.

Permits and Applications Process in Tucson

Before constructing an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) in Tucson, property owners must navigate through a specific permit application and approval process. This procedure ensures that all ADUs meet local zoning, safety, and building standards as regulated by the City of Tucson.

Application through PDSD

Applicants must submit their ADU plans to the Tucson's Planning and Development Services Department (PDSD) for review. This can be done through the PDSD's convenient online portal, which serves as a one-stop shop for applications. The free app, downloadable on various devices, provides accessibility to regulations and submission requirements. The application must include:

  • A site plan
  • Floor plans
  • Elevation drawings
  • Applicable fees

Applicants should carefully review all guidelines and standards before submitting their application to ensure a smooth process.

Inspection and Approval

Once an application is submitted, PDSD officials will conduct a thorough review. If the plan meets all requirements, the PDSD will issue a permit for construction. During and after construction, inspections are carried out by city officials to ensure the ADU conforms to the approved plans and city regulations. Following successful inspections, the PDSD will issue a Certificate of Occupancy, signaling that the ADU is compliant and safe for habitation.

Local Government and Policy Making in Tucson

In Tucson, the local government’s approach to accessory dwelling units (ADUs) is shaped by the Tucson City Council, collaborative efforts with the private sector, and input from community members within various wards.

Tucson City Council's Role

The Tucson City Council plays a fundamental role in the legislation and regulation of ADUs. Recent amendments illustrate their proactive stance on urban housing, allowing for the construction of ADUs on residential lots to enhance the availability of affordable housing. The Accessory Dwelling Units Code Amendment provides the framework for these structures, proposing size limits and height restrictions to maintain neighborhood consistency.

Public-Private Partnerships

Partnerships between the City of Tucson and private entities are critical in implementing new housing initiatives like ADUs. These collaborations often focus on sustainable development and the effective integration of new units into existing neighborhoods. By involving the private sector, Tucson aims to tap into innovative housing solutions that benefit the broader community.

Community Feedback and Ward Representation

The local government emphasizes the importance of community feedback in shaping policy. Each ward's council member, such as the representative from Ward 6, Steve Kozachik, engages with residents to ensure that new regulations, such as those concerning ADUs, align with the interests and concerns of the people. This democratic process helps in refining policies to match the unique needs of each ward in Tucson.

Market Trends and ADU Demand in Tucson

The landscape of housing in Tucson has seen a shift with the increased acceptance of Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs), often referred to as casitas or granny flats. They are not only altering the available inventory but also drawing attention from investors and reflecting pandemic-driven changes in housing needs.

ADU Availability and Inventory

Tucson's ordinance to allow ADUs on any residential lot has significantly increased their availability. Typically, these units are less costly than standard housing options, which contributes to a diverse inventory and provides more affordable living spaces. As a result, the demand for such units, be it for rent or purchase, is on the rise, thanks to their economic benefits and efficient use of space.

Investment and Outside Investors

Developers and outside investors are recognizing the potential for high returns on investment with ADUs in Tucson. The relatively lower construction costs of casitas compared to traditional homes present an attractive opportunity for investment. Many are turning single-family lots into dual-income properties by adding ADUs, capitalizing on Tucson's growing demand for diverse housing options.

Pandemic Influences on Housing

The pandemic has influenced housing preferences, with more people seeking independent and flexible living spaces. ADUs in Tucson have seen increased interest as they offer separate living quarters that can accommodate remote work, extended family living, or quarantine needs. This has led to a boost in their development and has positioned ADUs as valuable assets in the current housing market.

Frequently Asked Questions

In Tucson, Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) are subject to specific regulations that residents must adhere to. These FAQs provide essential information regarding size restrictions, cost ranges, bedroom limits, setback requirements, legal stipulations, and guidelines pertinent to guest house construction.

What are the current size restrictions for building an ADU in Tucson?

An ADU in Tucson can occupy up to 10% of the residential lot size, with a maximum size of 1,000 square feet. All lots allow for a minimum ADU size of 650 square feet. The regulations ensure ADUs are proportional to the existing lot and main dwelling.

What is the cost range for constructing an Accessory Dwelling Unit in Tucson?

The cost for constructing an ADU in Tucson can vary. It is influenced by factors such as materials, labor, design, and specific site requirements. Residents should engage with local contractors to receive accurate estimates tailored to their project.

How many bedrooms are permitted in an ADU in Pima County?

Pima County does not explicitly limit the number of bedrooms in an ADU. However, the overall size limitation of the unit naturally constrains the number of feasible bedrooms.

What are Tucson’s setback requirements for ADUs?

Tucson's setback requirements for ADUs dictate that they must be placed at a certain distance from property lines and the primary residence. These specifics are intended to maintain privacy and adhere to safety codes.

Can you provide a summary of the latest ADU laws and regulations for Tucson residents?

The latest ADU laws and regulations in Tucson allow for one ADU on any residential lot with stipulations on the unit's size, height, and placement to ensure compatibility with the neighborhood character.

What are the guidelines for guest house construction within the city limits of Tucson?

Guidelines for guest house construction emphasize the need for these structures to comply with current zoning codes, building standards, and the overall aesthetic and practicality within Tucson neighborhoods. Due diligence in planning and obtaining proper permits is critical.

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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