Kent Adopts Code Changes for ADUs
July 27, 2023
Even though the City of Kent was one of the first jurisdictions in Washington state to allow Accessory Dwelling Units in 1995, during the last two decades fewer than 30 Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) were built in the City of Kent.
An Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) is a habitable dwelling unit added to, created within, or detached from, and on the same lot with, a single-family dwelling that provides basic requirements for living, sleeping, eating, cooking and sanitation.
In 2019, the Legislature passed HB 1923. The bill provided financial incentives to larger cities that quickly took at least two of 12 actions designed to increase the supply of affordable housing. Additional state grant funding was also available to support the development of a city Housing Action/Options Plan. One of the strategies selected by the City of Kent involved evaluating ADUs and working to increase their number.
In order to identify potential support for adding more ADUs, the city surveyed elected officials, citizens, developers, and property owners who had encountered problems—or experienced success—developing an ADU.
The city surveys also identified barriers and challenges that have been constraining construction of new ADUs. The top 5 impediments revealed in the city’s research (which the city has the power to influence) include design/form, permitting and impact fees, ownership requirements, parking requirements, and the number of units allowed on the site.
According to city officials, community input the city received demonstrated a willingness among the public to encourage additional ADUs as a method to gradually increase density in single-family neighborhoods.
The surveys also identified removing barriers to ADU construction as a near-term, high-priority action item, consistent with the city’s housing policy goal to increase entry-level homeownership.
In 2022, the city applied for and received an $80,000 Department of Commerce Housing Action Plan Implementation grant to create a naturally occurring affordable housing dashboard, and to update development regulations for ADUs.
Then, the city began crafting a new Accessory Dwelling Unit ordinance that went through a series of reviews by the city’s Land Use Planning Board (Planning Commission), and City Council committees, before being considered by the entire City Council and approved on May 16, 2023.
Under the City’s new ADU ordinance, most ADU regulations have been consolidated into Kent City Code Section 15.08.250, and include the following incentives and exemptions to encourage the construction of additional Accessory Dwelling Units:
Number of ADUs allowed
Two ADUs per lot (24’ maximum heigh, and up to 1,000 SF per ADU) are allowed in any of the following configurations:
- One ADU and one DADU
- Two ADUs
- Two DADUs
One off-street parking space per ADU is required (in addition to the required parking for the single-family home). However, no off-street parking is required if the principal single-family dwelling is within .25-mile distance of a major transit stop as defined by RCW 36.78.696.
Additionally, the city planning director may waive this requirement if there are special circumstances related the to the property, location, and the right-of-way.
Water Service & Water Meters
No separate water service, or separate water meter, is required for the accessory dwelling unit(s), so long as a “Notice of Shared Water Meter” covenant is signed and recorded with the King County Recorder’s Office prior to issuing the ADU permit (for the benefit of any future condominium conversions).
Reduced Impact Fees
Park Impact Fees and Transportation Impact Fees will not be charged for the first ADU on a property; the first ADU is included as part of the primary home’s impact fees. Impact fees on the second ADU will be reduced to 50% of the single-family impact fee rate.
Owner-Occupancy of the ADU is no longer required. Property owners with an existing ADU (and a recorded covenant requiring owner-occupancy) may contact Planning@KentWA.gov for assistance in completing a covenant reversal form.
Besides being used as rental housing or space for family and occasional visitors, ADUs can also be a homeownership opportunity: The ADU can be owned as a condo unit separate from—and yet still accessory to—the primary residence.
- Duplex Regulations: Attached ADUs are not considered Duplexes, and are not required to satisfy duplex permitting requirements (Easier/Faster/Lower Cost).
- “Design Review” Regulations: No Design Review is required for Accessory Dwelling Units located inside the existing building footprint.
- “Accessory Structures” Review: Accessory Dwelling Units are exempt from “Accessory Structures” code provisions.
- Setbacks: Side yard & rear-yard setback requirements are reduced for ADUs
Administrative modifications are allowed if necessary to accommodate an ADU. For questions about constructing an ADU in the City of Kent, call or email the Planning Department at (253) 856-5454 or Planning@KentWA.gov.