Colorado city council discusses expanding housing options

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If passed, the proposal would mean property that is currently zoned as residential use would be allowed to have an accessory dwelling unit.

DENVER, Colorado — Three city councilmembers are working on a proposal that would expand accessory dwelling unit (ADU) zoning throughout all residential areas of Denver. 

Right now, about 35% of Denver’s land area allows for ADUs. Another 6% is zoned as residential but does not allow ADUs, meaning anyone in these areas must individually apply for ADUs on their property. 

“We’ve been going neighborhood by neighborhood for a while, and we have just come to that tipping point where we feel it’s in everyone’s best interest to do it for the city as a whole,” Councilmember Sarah Parady said. 

Parady estimates that council reviews at least one ADU rezoning, if not several, at more than half of all council meetings. In the last several years, rezoning applications for ADUs account for somewhere between 30-50% of all rezoning applications. 

Parady is working with councilmembers Chris Hinds and Darrell Watson on the proposal, which is still in early stages.

“Everyone in Denver is feeling the impact of our housing crisis and the cost of housing, so we are just looking for every possible way that we can as policy makers to add flexibility in,” Parady said. 

The issue of ADUs is also coupled with the fact that building an ADU is not attainable for most Denver families, even if they do own their home. Parady says making them a possibility in more lots across the city will hopefully start to come in and move the market price point down. 

“Neighbors have communicated consistently that we want this option. This is an option of flexibility for them and their families, for communities that they want to stay in,” Watson said. “Many of my neighbors have stated that they can afford to stay in their homes, but their children that grew up in the neighborhoods can’t. accessory dwelling units provide that opportunities for families to stay together and provides the opportunity, like I said, for gentle density.” 

Without having a more widespread allowance of ADUs, councilmembers have taken it upon themselves to zone their districts accordingly. Councilwoman Amanda Sandoval says she has rezoned her into area, District 1, apart from 300 doors that still don’t have ADU zoning. 


According to the city’s data, ADUs are most prominent in the city’s west and north areas, along with pockets in northeast Denver. Outlying areas include the most southern areas of the city. 

“Quite frankly, the folks in Congress Park are unhappy that they don’t already have access to ADUs neighborhood wide,” said Hinds, whose district is primarily multifamily buildings like condos, apartments and townhomes. 

Hinds says much of his district does not have the zoning in place currently, leaving out places that are pockets within those areas filled mainly with single family homes including Congress Park and City Park West. 

During Monday’s budget and policy meeting, Councilmember Stacie Gilmore shared her concerns about ensuring that outreach about the proposal and implementation are done in an equitable way. 

“I’m very concerned that we are setting a system where we might be, by not doing the aforementioned public outreach and education and doing that robustly, we could be doing that, we could be getting a homeowner into a foreclosure process,” Gilmore said. 

She worries that those who have homeowners associations (HOAs) may not follow the right rules or protocols when applying for an ADU due to HOA by-laws. She worries that without proper outreach and implementation, it may have consequential and detrimental impacts.

City council’s public hearing regarding this issue is on track to happen in August, with time leading up to it set aside to continue drafting amendment and zoning changes. 

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Colorado city council discusses expanding housing options

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