Milford accessory dwelling rules won't change market, pros say

MILFORD — The city's recent change to its accessory dwelling unit regulations will increase options, but not have a truly significant impact on the Milford market, according to local real estate experts.

An ADU is a housing unit built on the same lot as a larger main home.

Stephanie Ellison of Ellison Homes Real Estate said regulations minimized the effect — since these accessory apartments are mostly attached to larger homes that are owner-occupied homes most of the time — on an area desperate for more housing units.

"I don't think ADUs will add enough apartments to impact the housing market in Milford," Ellison added. "However, it will open a few more affordable opportunities that may not have been an option in the past."

Kevin Weirsman, owner of Total Realty Services, LLC., agreed, saying he does not expect recent changes in ADU regulations to have much of an overall effect on the real estate market.

"However, it may increase the number of options for people to be able to locate in Milford," he said.

Ellison said all the restrictions placed on the ADUs should ensure that neighborhoods will remain the same as they are now.

"An owner-occupant will be concerned with the quality of the tenant they are committing to," she said. "The apartments are not more than 800 square feet, which limits the number of occupants the apartment can accommodate."

The change would allow owners to derive income from the ADU by renting it to someone who is not a relative. Milford also would limit ADUs to 800 square feet and require it to be attached to the main structure.

Ellison and Weirsman also agreed if someone creates an ADU in their home, it doesn't necessarily make the home more valuable.

"If someone wants to own rental units, there are better investment opportunities in multi-families in and around Milford," said Ellison. "The ADU only adds value for the person that needs that use."

Weirsman said the presence of an ADY "may decrease time on the market for homes with an ADU attached for buyers looking for that amenity for family members or to lease the space for some added income."

Another city in Connecticut to modify its ADU regulations was Fairfield in 2022 

However, there are some differences in the regulations. In Fairfield, the maximum ADU square footage is 1,500 or less, and the rules permit detached units in some circumstances.

"We have close to 200 apartments in inventory," said James Wendt, Fairfield planning director. "Our regulations require owner occupancy of either the main dwelling or the unit accessory unit. The non-owner-occupied unit may be rented, and our regulations require a minimum lease period of 60 days so as not to be a transient accommodation."

Alexis Harrison, a member of the Fairfield Town Plan and Zoning Commission, said various advocacy groups had backed changes in the towns zoning regulations to allow ADUs to be incorporated into new construction as detached structures in certain parts of town.

"ADUs provide options for our senior residents to stay in their homes and continue living independently. Accessory apartments are but one way we can enable them to do so and we should," she said. "Enabling more ADUs to be built, which our expanded regulations are designed to do, will add to organic, de-facto affordable housing and the diversity of housing in our town, which will benefit current and future town residents."

Wendt noted that while rental is permitted, many units are used for family accommodations.

"We did not experience a boom of new apartments at any time during our most recent changes," he said. "ADUs offer an important option of an alternative housing choice. While not required to be deed restricted or affordable housing, ADUs tend to be naturally more affordable than other market-rate units."

"They also serve to provide another option to help families with multi-generational households or allow folks to potentially have an income stream to allow them to remain in their home," Wendt added.

Ellison said the same impact could happen in Milford by helping older people to stay in their homes longer.

"Because they can have rental income, it will help pay for taxes and other expenses they wouldn't be able to afford otherwise," she said.

As the ADU regulations have changed, Weirsman said he expects some to look for houses where ADUs are possible.

"But most frequently, these people will be people who would already be in the market for homes with an extended family living option," he said.

Ellison said most buyers looking for a single-family home aren't looking to have an unrelated person living in their home.

"Most people get involved in this situation when a family member needs to live with them," she said.

However, under the previous regulations, when their family member died, they couldn't rent out the ADU they already had, she said.

"The housing crisis and high rent in the larger apartment complexes make this a great affordable rental opportunity, and it was the perfect time to make it legal," she said.

Weirsman agreed, stating the regulation change is positive for owners with a legal ADU but do not have a family member who needs it.

"Amending the regulations to include the ability to rent the ADU to non-family members will assist homeowners in offsetting their property costs and not having wasted space that may previously have been unusable," he said.