Falmouth Town Meeting voters overwhelmingly approved a new Accessory Dwelling Unit bylaw that gives the ability to build attached units by right, with design review, without income or familial restrictions. Below is more about the Falmouth Accessory Dwelling bylaw and the need for the bylaw.
The Problem: The Cape Cod Young Professionals ‘Shape the Cape’ study showed housing availability and affordability as one of the main reasons young professionals either do not locate on Cape Cod or simply leave the region altogether. We need to reverse this trend in order to have a healthy, sustainable community. Accessory dwellings are one of the ways we can increase both the availability and affordability of the housing stock without developing more land, while prioritizing our environment.
The current rental market in Falmouth is too small, driving up rental prices. The types of rentals tend to be too big (3BR houses) and expensive for some segments of the population while affordable housing excludes those with moderate incomes, like young professionals and students who may make a decent income but have to spend a large amount of it on student loans or other debt.
This by-law (Article 7 on the Annual Town Meeting Warrant) will make it easier for homeowners to rent out accessory units on their property, for example a carriage house, an in-law apartment or a garage apartment. It removes some current zoning restrictions on ADUs (such as renter income and long-term deed restrictions), which would encourage homeowners to bring in-law apartments up to code and create more year-round rentals.
The bylaw maintains important building and wastewater regulations that are necessary to protect community character and water quality.
Accessory units are great option because they create affordability in two categories – increasing attainable rental options and creating an income stream to make a home more affordable for owners. Allowing existing homeowners to create more rental opportunities without adding more bedrooms or bathrooms than allowed strikes a great balance of more units, while keeping the charm and character of Falmouth intact.
Critically, the proposed accessory dwelling bylaw requires all existing land use and wastewater regulations have to be met. The proposed bylaw just allows the creation of more attainable, yet compact units to help offset the shortage of available units.
Who else benefits?
- More Cape Cod residents will be able to afford to stay on the Cape and buy a home here if they can rent out a carriage house or garage apartment to help them pay for their mortgage.
- Making it easier to rent out accessory units will provide more reasonably-priced rental units for people who might otherwise have difficulty finding housing on the Cape.
- By making it easier for homeowners to rent out their carriage house or garage apartments, Falmouth can increase the number of year round rentals without letting developers ruin the character of the community with more development and big apartment buildings.
- Seniors on Cape Cod will be able to stay on the Cape if there are more convenient, affordable apartment homes for them to rent or live in themselves and rent out the main home
- The accessory units would have to comply with the existing septic and wastewater requirements for the town.
- The accessory unit could not be sold separately from the primary residence.
- All accessory units would have a separate entrance, a bathroom, and a kitchen.
- The property owner would be required to live on the property at least 7 months out of the year.
- Accessory units would have to be rented for at least six months or longer, meaning it couldn’t be used for summer rentals or Air B&B or other lodging purposes.
- No more than one accessory unit could be created on a lot.
- The accessory unit could not have more than two bedrooms or be more than 40% of the primary residence; however, then amount of bedrooms would still be restricted by wastewater regulations and septic capacity
- Lot coverage ratios (how much of a lot that can be covered by building) would remain as it currently is and the bylaw does not allow for increases in this regulation.
- Accessory units would need to have their own parking spots.