We talked about the importance of flexible ADU policy that makes it simple and cost-effective for homeowners to rent out their space.
DC's ADU rules are an example of how NOT to do this, which we talked about on the show, but I didn't do a very good job of articulating, so here's the issue.
In 2016 DC began officially allowing ADUs in most residential zones to lots of fanfare about new housing supply and affordability.
Prior to 2016 DC already had lots of basement apartments. This is the most feasible way to add ADUs in DC's rowhouse neighborhoods.
Some of these were (are) illegal and don't meet safety requirements, but some were a legal way of homeowners renting out a room in their house with stairs still connecting the main house and basement apartment and with adequate egress in the basement apartment in case of fire.
This provided a relatively cheap and easy way for homeowners to rent out space that offers them and their tenants privacy. Many DC basements have at least a backdoor so they have already their own entrance.
Add a small kitchen and bathroom if necessary, dig out a deep window to provide an escape and more light if the basement doesn't already have adequate fire escapes, and you have a quasi apartment ready to rent out.
BUT, after DC implemented the 2016 ADU rules that policymakers said would make ADUs easier to build, DCRA stopped permitting new kitchenettes (even wet bars!) and new full bathrooms in basements for homeowners who aren't going through the full ADU process.
Now homeowners have to separate the electric metering between the main house and basement in order to have a legal ADU. This costs thousands of dollars. Additionally, if the basement ceiling is less than 7', they have to dig it out. This is tens of thousands more.
There's not good data on annual basement apartment construction before and after DC "legalized" ADUs, but I'd bet it's fallen since the new rules allegedly made them easier to build.
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