- To boost the supply of affordable housing, Miami-Dade County, Florida, commissioners voted last week to allow many single-family homeowners to rent out garages, separate quarters or detached backyard apartments to families on their properties.
- In a 5-3 vote, the commission authorized homeowners in unincorporated areas of the county to rent out attached or detached accessory dwelling units if they meet specific standards, such as lot size and parking requirements.
- According to the ordinance’s text, the county is among the most rent-burdened metro areas in the country, with many paying more than 30% of their income on housing. Meanwhile, there is a demand for smaller, more affordable units, including older adults wishing to age in place. “We think [ADUs are] a critical part for creating the opportunities for more affordable workforce housing,” said County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava at the meeting ahead of the vote.
Nationwide, the cost of buying and renting a home has skyrocketed in recent years. Experts say this is partly due to a limited supply of affordable and middle-income housing units.
There has been a growing momentum among states and cities to amend restrictive local zoning laws, making it easier and cheaper for developers to build new housing. These measures aim to alleviate pressure on the housing market. Some jurisdictions, for instance, have eliminated parking requirements, while cities and states, including California and Oregon, have moved to roll back single-family zoning laws.
Miami-Dade County also amended its zoning laws in September to allow developers to build more apartments near transit routes in cities.
A number of communities across the U.S. have also updated their zoning laws to allow ADUs, or tiny homes that are 400 square feet or less. California, for instance, passed a law in 2019 allowing the construction of ADUs on the same lot as an existing multifamily home.
As Miami- Dade County’s ordinance stated, authorizing ADUs “can help tenants find more affordable, smaller non-transient dwellings and can help homeowners build wealth in their existing single-family residences or, in some instances, make the purchase or maintenance of a home feasible by reducing the homeowner’s financial burden.”
The ordinance received pushback from residents nervous about a range of issues, such as parking and the changing character of their single-family neighborhoods.
Commissioner René Garcia said ahead of his no-vote that he understands the need to increase the supply of affordable housing. But he feared it could overwhelm county infrastructure and put more cars on the roads. He added that it could “destroy the integrity of communities and of neighborhoods.”
“You have individuals across Miami- Dade County who have bought into the idea of single-family residential homes, and now we’re going to say that’s out the door. What about them?” Garcia said.
Some commissioners, including Raquel Regalado, pointed out that such dwellings were already being constructed in county neighborhoods, only illegally, and that there’s little county officials can do to stop it. The new rules provide residents with a legal pathway to build ADUs on their properties properly in a controlled manner.
“We literally have people who work who are living in their cars,” Commissioner Eileen Higgins said during the meeting. “The onus is on us to create more units.”