Real estate expert: Phoenix allowing guesthouses on existing properties ‘a good move’

Jul 10, 2023, 4:35 AM | Updated: 2:07 pm

Downtown Phoenix skyline...

View of the downtown Phoenix, Arizona city skyline as seen from South Mountain Park, August 28, 2018. (Photo by Robyn Beck/Getty Images)

(Photo by Robyn Beck/Getty Images)

PHOENIX — The city of Phoenix has moved forward with a plan that will allow “auxiliary dwelling units,” commonly known as guesthouses, to be added to existing properties with a single-family home.

Mark Stapp, Arizona State University’s Executive Director of the Master of Real Estate Program, told KTAR News 92.3 FM’S The Mike Broomhead Show on Thursday, this change is a good move.

“I think it’s absolutely the right thing to do. But…It goes under the category of ‘every little bit helps,’” Stapp said.

The new ordinance – which has been recommended by a city council subcommittee and will be considered by the full council later – permits one “ADU” on properties with single-family units that are less than 15 feet in height if detached from the main home.

They can also be in multi-family zoning areas as long as the ADU is used for one family.

It also clarifies the differences between ADUs, duplexes and triplexes and makes them legally distinct from each other. In any previous City of Phoenix policies, the word “guesthouse” has been changed to “auxiliary dwelling unit” as well.

Under the proposed rules, you would not be able to create an ADU bigger than 75% of the size of the main house, and no larger than 1,000 square feet if your overall property is less than 10,000 square feet.

Other rules, such as the distance the dwelling can be from the wall, may come into play depending on where you live.

ADUs can’t be built everywhere

Stapp said a single-family lot is designed and constructed for a single-family unit. The ADU must be connected to the sewer, water and electricity of the single-family unit.

And the presence of an ADU doesn’t guarantee affordability for the renter, either.

“You’re going to allow them to be developed, but it’s purely at the discretion of the property owner if they use them for affordable housing purposes,” Stapp said.

Overall, Stapp said it’s a drop in a very, very big bucket.

“I think it makes sense. But I think it’s going to have limited impact on the huge demand for affordable housing that continues to exist,” he said.

Phoenix City Councilmember Debra Stark worries that ADUs won’t benefit Valley residents who need housing, but instead be used for short-term rentals – something she says has happened in other cities.

However, city officials working on the ordinance say this policy is based on the rules in Flagstaff. There, the property owner has to be living in either the main home or ADU.

This does not outright bar short-term rentals from operating out of ADUs, but Christopher DeParro with the city’s Planning and Development Department explains the Flagstaff policy language has been successful there.

“We do believe that state law does limit our ability to put many restrictions on short-term rentals,” DeParro said.

Meanwhile, Stapp hopes this change will incite city leaders to keep looking in creative spaces to add affordable units to the Valley.

“There’s a lot of underutilized or obsolete commercial properties that are perfect for residential development. But you need to change the zoning, and we know what that means,” Stapp said.

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Real estate expert: Phoenix allowing guesthouses on existing properties ‘a good move’