City Council Considers Changes to Proposed Haverhill Rules for What Were Once ‘In-Law’ Units

File photograph. (Image licensed by Ingram Image.)

The city is changing its proposed revamp of what were once known as “in law apartments,” with the current draft limiting the size of units, requiring building foundations and special permits for detached units and other rules.

Members of the City Council’s Administration and Finance Committee meet tonight to iron out these and other changes to what are now known as “accessory dwelling units” and no longer restricted to family members. Fixes to the proposal, released late last year by Mayor James J. Fiorentini, were driven by resident concerns. City Councilor Melinda E. Barrett last Tuesday told her colleagues a Jan. 4 meeting was productive, attracting a number of residents who shared their thoughts along with the committee and the mayor’s office.

“The mayor’s office has taken to heart a lot of the suggestions made by the citizens. They are adjusting, yet again, the ordinance. We will discuss this one more time before we bring it to the Council,” she said.

The requirement to have foundations came in response to concerns raised that garages and backyard sheds could become homes.

Proposed updates also clarify those new apartments are allowed only on single-family lots, omit an affordability requirement of maximum 70% of fair-market rent and require annual proof of continued owner occupancy of the main residence and rental inspection if the property is sold.

The plan overall proposes lessening current limitations by no longer requiring them to fit within the boundaries of an existing building. Last December, Community Development Division Director Andrew K. Herlihy said expansion of what had been in-law apartments was intended to address the city’s housing needs.

“This is not a comprehensive housing solution, but we think that this is a tool. We have an epidemic of illegal units that we deal with and we have a goal to try to create some affordable units without requiring substantial additional construction or having to deal with approving large projects,” he explained.

It became controversial, however when some expressed fear it could open the gate to turning single-family neighborhoods into high density housing areas.

Following review by the Administration and Finance Committee, the revamped plan goes before the full City Council for debate during a regular meeting.

Comments are closed.