Camas OKs temporary ADU code changes ahead of new state law

HB 1337 will allow 2 accessory dwelling units per lot; alter ownership rules

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The front of Camas City Hall is pictured in August 2018. (Post-Record files)

The Camas City Council has unanimously approved temporary amendments to the City’s accessory dwelling unit (ADU) code that will limit the size and scope of ADUs built in Camas ahead of a more permanent ordinance that will comply with new statewide affordable-housing law — House Bill 1337 (HB 1337) — that will ultimately limit the way in which cities can regulate ADUs.

When it comes to ADUs, Camas Community Development Director Alan Peters told city officials in March, under HB 1337, cities must allow ADUs of at least 1,000 square feet in size with height limits no less than 24 feet and cannot have aesthetic requirements that are more restrictive than the principal homes on the property.

“We cannot impose setback requirements … and design requirements must be clear and objective,” Peters told Camas City Council members during their March 18 workshop.

The state law also opens up more possibilities of home ownership for lower-income buyers seeking smaller dwellings by allowing property owners to sell ADUs as a separate home.

“HB 1137 limits the ways in which cities can regulate ADUs and introduces substantial changes to how ADUs will be developed and used in the future,” Peters told Camas officials in his report to the Council. “The City will need to comply with HB 1337 by May 2025, six months after our comprehensive plan periodic review deadline, and at that time will need to allow for at least two ADUs per lot, the selling of individual ADUs as independent units, and will need to remove the owner occupancy requirement.”

According to the “Guidance for Accessory Dwelling Units” publication put out by the Washington State Department of Commerce, HB 1337 will “add to the diversity of housing options; provide a housing type that blends in well with existing low-density residential neighborhoods; cater to the state’s changing demographics, including seniors and smaller household sizes; provide a housing type that is typically more affordable than traditional, detached single-family homes; add housing units without expanding urban growth areas; and reduce climate impacts because ADUs tend to be smaller and use less energy than traditional single-family homes.”

Peters told Camas officials earlier this year that City staff have “received a certain amount of pressure from people in the industry to move faster because they want to (build ADUs).”

“There are a lot of requirements we’ll have to implement,” Peters told Council members in March. “And any changes we do make (now) ought to be consistent with HB 1337 so we don’t have to move in an opposite direction in two years.”

On Monday, May 6, the Council held a public hearing to consider changes to the City’s code relating to ADUs.

Peters told Council members that, if the City does not enact its own code around ADUs by the Dec. 31, 2026 deadline, the state’s default code would go into effect.

Peters said the amendments to the ADU code that Council members unanimously approved Monday night — which went into effect immediately — give City staff “time to study (HB 1337) more thoroughly while limiting the size of ADUs while we do it.”

The amendments approved Monday, which will apply to new ADUs, will limit building height to 24 feet — instead of 25 feet — for a detached ADU; set a maximum size of 1,000 square feet or 40% of the primary housing unit for an ADU; and will require that ADUs be connected to public sewer and water services.

The Council also approved adding a new section to the code related to ADUs and privacy, which states that “ADUs shall be designed and located to minimize disruption of privacy and outdoor activities on adjacent properties,” with suggestions for staggering windows and doors so they will not line up with windows and doors on next-door properties; avoiding upper-level windows, entries and decks “that face common property lines to reduce overlook of a neighboring property,” and installing landscaping to help build privacy barriers between ADUs and other properties.

“These changes are significant,” Peters said of the state’s bills passed in 2023 to expand affordable housing in Washington. “In two years, ADUs will be able to be split off and sold to a different buyer.”

Passing the changes Council OK’d Monday evening, Peters said, will address “some low-hanging fruit, while it gives us some time to come up with a solution.”

The ordinance approved Monday will extend for one year and can be extended for six months at a time, Peters said.