Planning Commission endorses Tucson’s plan to allow for backyard casitas

By Sam Kmack | Arizona Daily Star

The city Planning Commission endorsed a proposal that could make it easier to build casitas across the city, something proponents say could create more affordable housing options for Tucson residents.

Casitas — or accessory dwelling units — are small homes with a kitchen, bathroom and sleeping space that are built alongside full-sized houses, similar to a garage. They usually cost about half the price of a typical home, but restrictive zoning rules only permit their construction on large pieces of residential property that are rare throughout Tucson.

Under the new proposal, casitas will be allowed on any residential lot as long as they meet certain size and design requirements, such as having at least one parking space. The City Council initiated the proposal in November and it was endorsed by the Planning Commission last week after months of public outreach.

Officials hope the change will create more housing flexibility for seniors and large families, but the impact it will have on Tucson’s level of affordable housing is still uncertain.

“It’s hard to say,” said Ann Chanecka, the deputy director of Housing and Community Development in Tucson. “It’s a tool to help with housing, but it’s one tool, and in my opinion we need many other tools as well.”

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