Expand Pittsburgh’s Housing Choices with ADUs

Posted on 11/17/22

AARP is joining local residents and Pittsburgh City Council in efforts to update city ordinances and make Accessory Dwelling Units a viable housing choice in The Steel City. 

Accessory Dwelling Units or ADUs - often called in-law suites or guest houses - provide a unique solution to today’s housing challenges. They can be used to keep multi-generational families together, to give homeowners the option to rent part of their property to make their mortgages or property taxes more affordable and give seniors more options for aging in place.

With high inflation and interest rates affecting housing prices, ADUs represent an affordable housing option so people can live independently and longer, close to family.

Pittsburgh City Council adopted a resolution in September 2022 to begin the process of gathering information on ADUs and detached ADUs. Additional updates to zoning will be needed to make ADUs a reality for Pittsburgh families. Pittsburgh’s current law doesn’t reflect today’s needs, and it needs significant revision to allow for more accessible, sustainable housing.

AARP Pennsylvania is committed to continuing to work with local officials and community stakeholders to effectively address the city’s housing needs.

What are Accessory Dwelling Units?

An Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) is a fully self-contained home with its own kitchen, bathroom(s) and sleeping area on the same lot as the main house. They’re an intelligent match for smaller households and can be created through basement or garage conversions, additions, or new construction of backyard ‘tiny homes.'

Typically, most residential zones require that they be discreetly located to fit in well with the surrounding neighborhood.  Often, they’re invisible from the street. However, you should check local regulations to be sure your project is in compliance.

The creative design of ADUs can take many forms and styles; they can fit discreetly into all sorts of communities, including suburban subdivisions, row-house streets (either with or without back alleys), urban neighborhoods — and, of course, large lots in sprawling and rural areas.

DETACHED ADU:  a stand-alone home on the same lot as a larger, primary dwelling. Examples include backyard bungalows and converted outbuildings.

ATTACHED ADU: connects to an existing house, typically through the construction of an addition along the home’s side or rear. Such units can have a separate or shared entrance.

GARAGE ADU: uses an attached or detached garage by converting the space into a residence. Other options involve adding a second-story ADU above or beside a garage or building a new structure for both people and cars.

AARP has put together several publications to educate residents and stakeholders about ADUs.

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