Menu Bar

Home           Calendar           Topics          Just Charlestown          About Us

Tuesday, March 12, 2024

Gu introduces Senate bill to boost ADU development

Uh-oh...The CCA isn't going to like this, but everyone else will 

Victoria meets with a team of RISD students
who have been working on ADU designs

Sen. Victoria Gu has introduced legislation to boost housing production by allowing more Rhode Islanders to develop accessory dwelling units (ADUs) on their property. 

“I am happy to join my colleagues in the House in making ADUs accessible to more homeowners,” said Senator Gu (D-Dist. 38, Westerly, Charlestown, South Kingstown). 

“ADUs offer the ‘missing middle’: housing that is smaller, more affordable and smartly repurposes our existing buildings and garages. Homeowners can be a part of the solution to the housing crisis by creating or converting a garage, basement or shed into an ADU and offering it as a long-term rental. Then they have the benefit of receiving some additional income or housing a loved one, friend or onsite caregiver. It’s a win-win.” 

ADUs, sometimes referred to as in-law apartments, backyard cottages or granny flats, are accessories to existing housing, created as a conversion of part of a house (such as a walkout basement), an attachment to a house or a smaller, detached dwelling. 

They have become increasingly popular around the country in recent years as states and municipalities balance the need to create more housing with preserving the character of residential neighborhoods. 

Seniors, especially, have taken to ADUs as a way to downsize while continuing to live independently in the community they love. The bill was written in collaboration with Rhode Island AARP, for whom increasing production of ADUs for seniors to age in place within their communities has been a primary policy goal for several years. 

The bill (2024-S 2630) would allow homeowners to develop an ADU within the existing footprint of their structures by right, or build an attached or detached ADU if the lot is large enough. 

This bill is similar to the one (2024-H 7062) sponsored by Rep. June S. Speakman (D-Dist. 68, Warren, Bristol) which passed the House on Feb. 14, but differs primarily in how it allows municipalities to apply several regulations. 

Municipalities would be allowed to set a minimum rental period for ADUs and set up owner occupancy requirements if they so choose. Municipalities would still be in charge of setting standards for height, setbacks, lot coverage and other dimensional requirements for ADUs. This bill would also prohibit ADUs from being sold separately from the main house. 

To ensure that the bill achieves its goal of housing Rhode Islanders, the legislation prohibits ADUs constructed under this provision from being used as short-term rentals, and streamlines the permitting process. 

“We must reframe how we think about housing as we grow older, and ADUs are part of the equation,” said Catherine Taylor, AARP Rhode Island state director. 

“Aging in community – where 87% of Rhode Islanders 45 and older have told us they wish to be – is possible if homes can be modified to accommodate changing needs. Our cities and towns must have housing options that are suitable for differing incomes, ages and life stages. ADUs are an important way to accomplish this goal.” 

Said Senator Gu, “We need more housing at all price points: for families just starting off, seniors looking to downsize and everyone in between. Since June 2023, my colleagues in the Senate and I have met with a coalition of stakeholders, including housing advocates and the AARP, once a month to strengthen and clarify the ADU bill the House passed last year. We can encourage more housing while preserving our neighborhoods with smart planning. We owe it to our community to get this right.” 

The bill has many cosponsors, including Sens. Jacob Bissaillon (D-Dist. 1, Providence), John P. Burke (D-Dist. 9, West Warwick), Meghan E. Kallman (D-Dist. 15, Pawtucket, Providence), Frank S. Lombardi (D-Dist. 26, Cranston), Tiara Mack (D-Dist. 6, Providence), Joshua Miller (D-Dist. 28, Cranston, Providence) and Bridget G. Valverde (D-Dist. 35, North Kingstown, East Greenwich, South Kingstown).