UTAH

Utah cities are clearing the way for backyard homes

Jun 11, 2024, 1:00 PM

Utah backyard homes may become more abundant. (Megan Nielsen/Deseret News)...

Utah backyard homes may become more abundant. (Megan Nielsen/Deseret News)

(Megan Nielsen/Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — Several cities along the Wasatch Front are reportedly loosening their restrictions on so-called backyard homes.

An article in Buildingsaltlake.com lists several cities that have recently changed regulations to make it more convenient for people to construct external accessory dwelling units or ADUs. But this change doesn’t mean people should just start digging a foundation.

Cate Klundt, the director of government affairs for the Utah Association of Realtors, said there is not one set of rules for ADUs. 

“We recommend going to your city directly to see what the rules and regulations are going to be where your home or your piece of property is. The regulations and the requirements vary widely [from] city to city,” said Klundt.  

Even when dealing with architects and contractors, she said it’s a good idea to talk to city officials first. 

Restrictions and limitations

Klundt said that cities often have different, specific restrictions on external ADUs.

Some yards may not have adequate room for an ADU to sit within the property line or accommodate parking requirements.

Hookup requirements are another variable to consider and discuss with the city before breaking ground. 

“Some require that you have different meters. Some require that you have different hookups altogether, [and] some don’t. It varies between whether or not it’s an internal accessory dwelling unit or an external,” said Klundt. 

Financial benefits

 The regulations can be quite confusing, so you may have not seen a lot of people build ADUs yet. But Klundt said that if home prices continue to stay high, people will view it as an attractive option. 

“One of the biggest costs when it comes to developing, particularly starter homes … is the land. The land is really, really expensive. Backyard units … you’re taking the cost of land out of the equation and then you’re just talking about the structure and the additional utilities. And so that can make it a lot more cost-effective than trying to build a smaller home somewhere else,” said Klundt.

Family benefits

Klundt says that these backyard homes often make a lot of sense for families. 

“People have children and family members, maybe aging parents, that need a place to live that is not as costly as it might be to rent an apartment or even to rent a single-family home. And so it can be a better alternative for them,” she said. 

Klundt also said that the family members staying in backyard homes can also help supplement the mortgage and other home expenses while saving for their own homes. 

Other states

In other states, the practice is already common. 

“In other states where it can be more difficult or more costly to build a basement. Like I’m thinking of Nevada for instance. They have some like really interesting rock that makes it very difficult to build basements … mothers-in-law and apartments are much more common,” said Klundt.

She said in Utah we usually have basement apartments, or sometimes, apartments over garages. 

Klundt thinks that people are leaning into ADUs as a solution because it doesn’t require new infrastructure to be built. 

Although it would put some additional burden on our infrastructure, Klundt said, “It’s still much less expensive than building new infrastructure.”

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Utah cities are clearing the way for backyard homes