CHAMPAIGN — Some property owners are expressing concern about accessory dwelling units — small buildings on property zoned as single-family housing — as Champaign moves toward approving them.
The units have been promoted as a possible step toward more affordable housing and a way for family members to comfortably live together, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Accessory dwelling units are secondary residential units on a single-family lot. They can be internal, which exists in an existing home, attached to an existing home or detached, which would be a secondary home on the same property.
The idea to allow the units came up in 2019, when the Champaign City Council adopted the goal of incremental development, said Rob Kowalski, assistant director of the city’s planning and development department. He said the units are a big component of incremental development.
“Incremental development is a popular growing trend within communities who are looking to allow small, incremental changes in neighborhoods to add housing and business in a way that doesn’t upset the original fabric of those neighborhoods,” Kowalski said in an email.
To gauge residents’ interest in the units, the planning department sent out a survey in mid-August with questions about them and what they might look like in Champaign. Kowalski said about 65 to 70 percent of 1,513 participants seemed to indicate interest and support for them.
States like Oregon and California have already adopted accessory dwelling units, and with the debate now on in Champaign, some residents in the Clark Park neighborhood aren’t too happy about it.
‘A lot of flexibility’
Mike Reed, a Clark Park resident of 40 years who took the survey, said he thought some of the questions were worded in a way that made disagreeing with the idea of the units difficult, such as language about affordable-housing solutions and alternative living spaces for the elderly community.
“Those things are great, and I support that,” Reed said. “The question is, how do you keep that from turning into duplex zoning? Overturning single-family zoning is a big deal, and this will do away with single-family zoning because you can build another dwelling unit on any property if you don’t have any restrictions.”
Kowalski said accessory dwelling units can help diversify neighborhoods both racially and economically, as well as create options that solve affordable-housing issues. He said diversity has decreased in several cities across the country due to increased housing costs.
“The goal of accessory dwelling units is to introduce and allow smaller and more-affordable housing types within neighborhoods that provides property owners a lot of flexibility,” Kowalski said.
Along with affordable housing, Kowalski said the units can offer an alternative to expensive nursing homes or …….