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May, 2024

Regulatory Update:

Edina Approves Accessory Dwelling Ordinance, Demonstrating Leadership with a More Affordable Housing Policy Initiative

Although the proposed statewide “Missing Middle” Omnibus Housing bill was tabled in the Minnesota State Legislature this past month, the City of Edina has moved forward on its own. Displaying real leadership, the city council has approved an ordinance that conditionally permits one Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) to be built on any lot with a single-family home, assuming it’s appropriate to that purpose.


While MasterWerks had concerns about the omnibus bill, discussed in our March Vantage Point alert, we view Edina’s straightforward policy change as a laudable, effective step towards helping meet the very real need for more flexible and affordable housing options, while moving towards the city’s sustainability goals. Properly designed and built, ADUs are realistic housing choices that won’t excessively strain community infrastructure, parking, and green space or severely damage neighborhood character and aesthetics through draconian, state-mandated forced densification. These smaller units provide low-density living situations for extended family, caregivers, or renters in established single-family neighborhoods while remaining under the aegis of local municipal control.


Although actual permitting would depend on whether the ADU’s design conforms to various municipal regulations—ground coverage, setbacks, and other issues—theoretically, a homeowner could add an ADU to any lot that meets these criteria without physical constraints, and the unit could be configured in various ways: detached or attached to the house or garage or constructed within the interior of the home. These links provide basic details on what the new ordinance allows, as well as background on the council’s decision.


From MasterWerks’ standpoint, we do caution homeowners that any plan to add an ADU must be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. There are situations where they simply won’t work. Furthermore, unless the ADU looks seamless—as though it were originally designed as part of the lot or main structure—you could risk negatively impacting your property value.


However, when strategically researched, designed, and built, an ADU can definitely enhance property value, and if used as a rental, substantially increase monthly income and offset other expenses—a true asset and hedge in inflationary times. We include a few examples of MasterWerks’ successful projects in this arena and invite you to contact us if you’d like to discuss the feasibility of incorporating an ADU into your property.


Watch for our upcoming Perspective on this subject with a more comprehensive discussion of the pros and cons, as well as potential applications. By passing this ordinance, Edina has created a real opportunity for homeowners and residents. Depending on your individual circumstances, you may be able to benefit from adding an ADU.

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These two major MasterWerks projects—all-new construction in the case of the home above and complete transformation with a new garage on the home below—were built in accordance with Edina’s past ordinances. At the time, the city drew the line at turning any room above a garage into habitable living quarters. So, although we incorporated a second level into the design of these two garages, the initial use was intended as storage. With foresight, however, we ran some underground mechanicals out to the garages and left them unhooked-up. Now, since the exteriors are essentially complete, it would be relatively easy to realize the potential of these second level spaces by turning them into ADUs.


It's important to note, however, that these garages are not simple boxes, their second floors mere add-ons. Each was thoughtfully designed to complement the elegance and prestige of the main house and to make the most intelligent use of the lot—oversized in the case of the home below. By amplifying the beauty of the whole, these garages enhance the owners’ overall property value. 


If your Edina property includes a space of this kind or another type of bonus room, it may be a prime candidate for conversion, whether to an office, guest room, or a complete ADU. 

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We never just add on,
We multiply value

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It’s easy to overlook— and increasingly difficult to spot—seemingly minor news with major consequences. Often related to governance changes, proposals fly under the radar because they appear boring, wonky, or hyper-local. If they rise to the level of public discussion, they’re camouflaged with positive sound bites, masking unstated effects on people’s comfort, convenience, or pocketbooks. Meanwhile, unsuspecting homeowners assume their representatives or others in opposition will handle the issue or that the legislation or regulation will never pass, without fully realizing the vast power of legislative and bureaucratic maneuvering that often pushes changes through without a direct, up-or-down vote. The new law or ordinance gets approved, and they’re left to wonder, “How the heck did THAT happen?”


To shine a light on obscure dynamics, MasterWerks constantly reviews and filters information that may affect our clients. The goal of “Vantage Point” alerts is to raise awareness of pending issues and advance opportunities for you to make your voice heard when it counts. We believe everyone needs to think about new ideas and proposals—not only their immediate objectives and benefits but their longer-term consequences, both intended and unintended—and the net effects of those changes for ourselves and our communities.


You’ll also find Vantage Point alerts archived on this site, under the "VantagePoint" tab.

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