Much has been written in recent years about the push to end Atlanta’s exclusionary single-family zoning, certain neighborhoods’ pushback against it, and the city council’s ultimate decision to kick that can down the road.
But accessory dwelling units—or ADUs—aren’t forbidden everywhere in the ATL. As a new project in Home Park vividly illustrates.
When all goes well, ADUs function as a means for home and property owners to activate underused backyards and other spaces, building smaller dwellings that in turn bring additional income as rentals.
On the flipside, for renters, ADUs offer more housing options in a city with tight supply, oftentimes with larger spaces than traditional apartments in hip neighborhoods that have become prohibitively expensive.
Which brings us back to Home Park, a historic neighborhood of mostly single-family housing wedged between Atlantic Station and Georgia Tech.
Previously, the property in question near 14th Street’s Al-Farooq Masjid mosque was home to only a small, two-bedroom bungalow of 900 square feet. The backyard was empty, and the neighborhood’s R-5 zoning (like those with R-4 designations, but not R-1 to R-3) allowed for an ADU, within certain restrictions. Added bonus: the lot has an alley behind it, allowing for private ADU access.
The property owner, a Home Park real estate investor of more than 30 years, was working with Rockethouse Design+Build—a metro Atlanta homebuilder with a stable of custom ADU plans—on another project, when he hatched the idea for an ADU behind the bungalow.
So what’s allowed today when such ideas pop up?
Within Atlanta city limits, a maximum of two dwellings per property (including ADUs) are permitted in areas with R-4 and R-5 designations. R-5 properties also allow for duplexes, but duplexes don’t qualify to have ADUs, as that would technically be a third dwelling. Guest homes—those with no cooking appliances—are allowed, but they’re limited to a size of 30 percent of the main structure.
Rockethouse’s Dennis Tidwell tells Urbanize Atlanta this week the two-story Home Park ADU project is now complete, incorporating a modern aesthetic, a stone veneer-clad façade, and large casement windows. A second-floor patio has several nice touches, including an outdoor fireplace, glass handrails, and views to both Atlantic Station and Midtown, per Tidwell.
As for nuts and bolts, the ADU tops out at a height of 21 feet, and it constitutes 55 percent of the lot coverage. It clocks in at the maximum allowable 750 square feet, which Tidwell notes must include all “under roof” spaces in Atlanta, such as non-heated, covered porches.
It has a private bedroom with an ensuite bathroom on the main floor, where the kitchen’s located. An open-plan upstairs has a queen bed and second bathroom that Tidwell concedes will probably function better as a home office than additional bedroom.
“We maxed out our 750 square feet, but if I had 150 more, we could have made this plan perfect for two roommates,” he says. “Unfortunately, the compromise makes the upper bedroom too open.”
The total cost? It clocked in at $154,000. But according to Tidwell, new construction would land closer to $175,000 for the same property these days, in light of price increases.
The owner was in the fortunate position of being able to finance the project with cash; ADUs are tough to finance otherwise, although “that may change. as lenders are now figuring out ways to do so,” Tidwell notes.
Within days of being finished, the ADU project found a tenant, according to Tidwell. That year-long lease will bring in $1,800 monthly.
For a quick property tour, swing up to the gallery above.
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