Reno eying change to accessory dwelling unit law (opinion) |

Reno eying change to accessory dwelling unit law (opinion)

Doug McIntyre
Special to the NNBV
Doug McIntyre

Within the city limits of Reno, the accessory dwelling unit (ADU) land use codes are under consideration for change. ADUs include common terms such as in-law apartments, secondary apartments, backyard cottages or granny flats.

The city is looking at different strategies to increase available housing, and is looking at ADUs in an effort to address housing availability and affordability issues. ADU code changes are just one approach, and historically these types of dwelling units have been severely restricted within the City of Reno.

ADUs can be traced back to the early twentieth century, when they were a common feature in single-family housing. The idea reemerged in the 1990s in response to increased traffic congestion, zoning restrictions and affordable housing shortages.

Today, ADUs are addressing many demographic and economic changes, as well as changing community goals, with increased parking being one of the biggest.

Should the ADU ordinance move forward, it would provide a market-rate rental housing type that is not currently available in the City of Reno, and would increase overall rental options.

Based on information included in the Truckee Meadows Regional Planning Agency housing study, increasing the number of rental housing units available at all income levels would help alleviate competition for units affordable to households making 50 to 80 percent of the area median income (AMI).

Although the impacts of ADUs on single-family neighborhoods are relatively low in comparison to other types of affordable housing (e.g., multifamily apartments), there are neighborhood concerns relating to character/design, parking, property values and community services.

ADU code changes have and are being reviewed by the Reno Planning Commission. Reno Community Development staff have provided several proposed changes, and continue to hone in on code language.

Some of the changes propose limited square footage, height limitations, property line setbacks, architectural compatibility with an existing residence and parking requirements.

Additionally, under consideration would be restrictions involving prohibiting use as a short-term rental, use as office space, and a requirement that the owner must reside on the property where the ADU is located.

To date, according to the National of Association of Realtors Growth Management Fact Book (2017 Edition) — and based on community input — two neighborhoods were identified as not appropriate ADUs: Country Club Acres and the West University Neighborhood Plan.

Within the next couple months, the Reno Planning Commission will have another presentation by community development staff containing the Planning Commission’s recent feedback.

Once the Planning Commission approves the ordinance, it will go before the Reno City Council for final review, approval and enactment.

Because low inventory and lack of affordability is such an issue for this area, and it will impact future smart growth and economic development, we applaud the city and county’s efforts in reviewing and assessing all the options.

Doug McIntyre is president of the Reno/Sparks Association of Realtors. Go to to learn more.


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