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The Columbian: PSU researchers study ADUs’ role in housing crisis
Author: Patty Hastings, The Columbian
Posted: June 25, 2017

Read the original story in The Columbian.

Researchers and students at Portland State University are tackling different sides of Portland’s housing crisis and the ways ADUs could be part of the solution. The university will host a mini-conference in the fall, “Build Small Live Large.”

Recent work includes looking into what makes a lot ideal for an ADU. Is it zoned correctly? How big is the lot? Does the property already have an ADU?The Institute for Sustainable Solutions’ Small Backyard Homes program created maps that measure the growing amount of ADU construction and that look at residential properties in Portland most suitable for potential development. One such map identified 29,363 sites within 500 feet of a transit stop that were suitable to build an ADU of at least 100 square feet.

It shows that some neighborhoods are more viable than others. Analyzing properties in Portland can help determine which areas may be the best targets for incentives or information, said Sachi Arakawa, a graduate research assistant at the Institute of Portland Metropolitan Studies and intern with Small Backyard Homes.

Small Backyard Homes plans to plug the info into an app where homeowners could look up their address, see what’s possible for their property and get all the necessary policy and procedural information without having to visit the Bureau of Development Services.

“Digging through it can be really overwhelming for homeowners,” Arakawa said. “We’re trying to make it as accessible and easy to use as possible.”

Through the app, people could also access ADU blueprints. Architecture students with the Center for Public Interest Design have designed a handful of ADUs, including a pre-fabricated unit that could be installed inside a garage. That’s the same group behind the Kenton Women’s Village, a transitional housing community of tiny homes in North Portland for homeless women.

The university is also partnering with a group called Alley Activation to try to transform alleyways from underused rough service roads into more useful, inviting gathering places, and ADUs could be a part of that. There was a block party Saturday to celebrate future restoration work at an alleyway between Beech and Failing streets in Portland. An ADU built in somebody’s backyard could have alley access, putting more eyes on the alley and making it more welcoming. One of the maps Small Backyard Homes made shows tax lots adjacent to alleys.