An accessory dwelling unit ("ADU") is a self-contained or segregated space within a single-family home, comprised of a kitchen, bathroom and living/sleeping area and subject to size, design, ownership and use restrictions.
In 2009, Town Meeting considered an ADU-authorizing zoning bylaw amendment. While a strong majority voted in favor of that article, it fell several votes short of the 2/3 required super majority for adoption of all zoning articles. This current ADU article for single family homes differs in some respects from the prior article, while adopting some provisions from the Newton ADU ordinance which became effective in 2017.
Under Article 19, the principal residence or the ADU must be owner-occupied; the ADU, if granted by right, can be no greater than 750 square feet or 30 percent of the home's total habitable space, whichever is less, and by Special Permit, under certain conditions may be up to 950 square feet. The property must be under a single common ownership, i.e., it cannot be 'condo'd'. The exterior of the house must continue to appear as a single-family home and can have only one set of metered
All approved ADU's would require initial and periodic certifications of owner-occupancy of the subject property. Based upon the many specific restrictions included in the article, a single-family home containing an authorized ADU would be very different than a two-family home.
In recommending this Article, the Brookline Housing Advisory Board (HAB) has observed the growing popularity of ADU's in urban, suburban and rural communities, both in Massachusetts and nationwide. This trend is mainly a result of households becoming smaller; the continued aging of our population with a desire of many homeowners to 'age in place'; and more inclusive definitions of "family". The AARP, among others, has reported very favorable research on accessory dwelling units, and many of our neighboring communities now authorize and encourage ADU's.
A review of numerous Greater Boston area communities that have adopted an ADU Bylaw indicates on the one hand significant variations in specific bylaw provisions and, on the other hand, remarkable uniformity in the overall volume of resulting activity, which has been low everywhere. The HAB has found no evidence that these communities have experienced any adverse neighborhood effects.
The HAB sees ADU's as one component of a strategy that encourages a diversity of housing types to serve many legitimate social, economic and housing needs of our increasingly diverse Brookline citizenry.
In particular, ADU's are seen as potentially helpful to:
1. Young families or single working parents seeking stable childcare options;
2. Middle-aged parents helping adult children to become independent;
3. Frequent travelers, or retirees who winter in warmer climes, concerned about leaving homes unattended;
4. Older homeowners seeking to remain in homes, while needing personal assistance/companionship;
5. Adult children seeking to care for older parents while maintaining independence for both;
6. Families with disabled members seeking stable and convenient options for in-house care;
7. Homeowners of all ages struggling to pay their living and home maintenance costs;
8. Renters seeking lower cost living options. Short term rentals would be prohibited.
In summary, the Housing Advisory Board believes that Article 19 will enable some homeowners - especially older adults - to reduce their own housing (or other life) costs and/or for the occupants of ADU's to live more economically, thereby increasing affordability in general without public cost or further new development.
Finally, this ADU article will promote greater personal safety and security by providing an opportunity for owners of currently unauthorized dwelling units to have their units inspected for fire, health and safety code compliance and allowing their existing illegal units to be legalized.