To help mitigate the immediate need for affordable rental units in the Mad River Valley, the Mad River Valley Housing Coalition has launched a new Accessory Dwelling Unit Program (MRV ADUP) that includes financial incentives for creating ADUs.
An accessory dwelling unit, often referred to as an ADU or in-law apartment, is a separate living unit contained within, attached to, or detached from a larger single-family home on the same residential lot. An ADU has living and sleeping quarters, a place to cook and a bathroom private from the main home.
“Coalition members recognized that promoting the construction of Accessory Dwelling Units as affordable long-term rentals offers a quick and economical alternative to larger, more complicated projects,” said Kaziah Haviland Montgomery, a Waitsfield resident who is working as a consultant for the housing coalition.
The supply of affordable rental housing in the Mad River Valley has diminished leading to
an acute need for more long-term rental units. This rental deficit is highlighted by the 2019 Housing Demand and Market Analysis Report which the Mad River Valley Planning District and its member towns commissioned.
Two of the top three housing priorities listed by the report are “+/- 35 units of Workforce Rental Housing” and “20-25 units of Senior Rental Housing.” The report also states that a project of this size “would not come close to meeting all of the unmet demand in the MRV.”
After engaging with the community and housing-related professionals, it became clear that creating a single comprehensive project of this size in The Valley would take years to complete and such a large-scale project may not be welcomed by all community members.
“The Mad River Valley Housing Coalition realized that chipping away at this number as fast as possible needed to be a top priority,” Montgomery said.
In 2009, The MRV Housing Coalition and the MRV Planning District released “A Guide to Creating and Renting Accessory Apartments in the Mad River Valley” in 2009. To bolster that earlier work, the new program creates a new incentive-based approach to developing ADUs. In return for an affordability commitment from the homeowners, the housing coalition will offer construction grants up to $10,000 and free professional assistance throughout the permitting, design and development process. The goal is twofold: to offset the financial loss a homeowner might incur by committing to renting the unit at an affordable cost for five years (rent determined annually by the Vermont State Housing Authority), and to make the process of creating an ADU easier.
Accessory Dwelling Units allow a range of living options which increases housing flexibility as family circumstances change. At their most basic, they provide a steady source of income for the homeowner and an affordable rental unit for the tenant. However, the incentive for constructing an ADU is not always financial. Homeowners can design an ADU in which they may age in place while renting out their main house, allowing them to stay on their property as they grow older. ADU rental agreements can also offer the potential of shared home maintenance as certain tasks become more difficult with age. ADUs provide a solution for multigenerational families, caregivers, or second-home owners who want someone looking after the property while they are away.
Creating new ADUs on previously developed land can lessen the environmental impact of development by reducing pressure to use raw land, open space and farmlands for sprawling development. A more affordable, year-round rental unit also helps the local economy by providing opportunity for local workforce to live in The Valley.