The Colorado Springs City Council has been working on a draft ordinance to expand the use of Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs). Although ADUs have been allowed in certain zone districts in Colorado Springs since 2003, AARP Colorado supports this thoughtful, community conversation about ADUs based on the housing model’s ability to help seniors age-in-place and provide more affordable housing opportunities for all residents.

“There is a huge disconnect between available housing stock in the U.S. and in Colorado Springs. When 53% of Americans either live alone or as a couple and only 12% of the housing stock is either a studio or one bedroom, ADUs can help fill that gap, especially for seniors.”

Tiny homes as an ADU

Tiny homes as an ADU. Photo: Chuck Collier

ADUs are self-contained, secondary housing units that exist within or adjacent to a primary residence—such as in the basement, the garage, on an upper floor, in an attached addition or in the backyard.[i]

The advent of more ADUs in Colorado Springs is supported by a survey by AARP’s national organization and supports the way that seniors surveyed want to live:

AARP surveys of people 50+ show:

-85% want to age in place in their home community

-84% would consider an ADU to provide for a loved one in need of care.

-83% would consider an ADU to provide housing for relatives or friends.

-67% support for ADUs as increasing the value of their homes.

-60% would consider an ADU as a place for a caregiver to stay.

With only 20% of Americans living as a nuclear family, 87% of existing or new-build housing still has two- to five-plus bedrooms. If planned appropriately, ADUs can help fill this disconnect by increasing supply of affordable housing and allow seniors and others to be close to work, recreation and shopping. The recent call for multi-generational living is also supported—perhaps grown adults will occupy the ADU on parents’ property and then switch to the larger home when they begin to have children.

ADU conversations happening at Colorado Springs City Council meetings.

ADU conversations are happening now at Colorado Springs City Council. 

“The City Council appears to be taking a thoughtful, measured approach as they seek more community input,” said AARP State Director Bob Murphy. “We see a lot of potential for our membership, such as providing an income opportunity so older adults can stay in their homes longer as well as provide entry-level, affordable  housing opportunity for younger adults.”    

The naysayers often point to potential “densification” issues when in fact, not very many people can afford to build ADUs and those who do are subject to many building codes and rules that keep their proliferation unlikely, Murphy said.

“When we read about projections for thousands of these going up and clogging roadways or causing infrastructure burden, well, the facts don’t support this outcome in jurisdictions who expand their use,” he said.

On its website, the Planning and Community Development Department maintains that “expanding the use of ADUs in single-family zoned neighborhoods will give property owners in all residential zone districts the same opportunity to provide accessible, and semi-independent, housing for family members or as an investment in the property. This ordinance will also loosen some of the strict requirements currently applied to ADUs in multi-family zone districts.” There’s more on the site about long- and short-term rental uses, but Murphy says that now is the time to educate yourself about these topics as City Council continues to hold discussions and take public input prior to voting on the ordinance.

To keep up with the citywide discussion about ADUs, visit the Planning and Community Development Department or for more information about seniors and ADUs find more at AARP.

[i] Making Room-Housing for a Changing America, AARP and the National Building Museum, 2019.