Mayor&Rsquo;S Office

Encourage Creation of Accessory Dwelling Units

Policy Reform Goal

The goal of this reform is to encourage the creation of Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) to support homeowners as they age in place, provide a flexible option to help owners continue afford their homes, and add additional affordable housing options within existing neighborhoods.

Adopted Zoning Reforms

On February 18, 2020, the City Council unanimously adopted zoning reforms for ADUs. In order to achieve the above goal, the reforms build on the recommendations that were presented in the City’s 2018 ADU White Paper and input from the 2019 Housing Summits, including:

  • Allow ADUs for all existing and new single family homes in all zoning districts as a permitted use, and no longer require that an ADU be subject to conditional use review by the DRB (some ADUs may still be subject to design review approval by the DRB).
  • No longer require an ADU to have a dedicated parking space, and enable stacked parking (up to three spaces parked end-to-end) if a homeowner provides a space
  • Allow the ADU to be up to 30% of the gross floor area of the home or up to a maximum size of 800 sq.ft., whichever is greater. The alternative maximum size is intended to remove the barrier faced by smaller homes throughout the city.
  • Enable the DRB to grant a waiver for up to 650 sq.ft. of the footprint of the ADU to exceed the lot coverage limits if stormwater impacts are addressed. This waiver process is intended to address the barrier faced by smaller lots throughout the city that are already legally at or over their lot coverage limit.

Review More Info & Share your Thoughts

Use these quick links to review the adopted zoning reforms, and additional information about this proposal below. 

Framing the Burlington Context

  • ADUs have been legal in Burlington since statewide enabling legislation was passed in 2005. However, despite zoning policy reforms in 2008 to make ADUs more permissive, as of July 2019 only 45 ADUs havd been legally permitted and ultimately constructed.
  • The median single-family home size in Burlington is 1,500 sq.ft.; current zoning would enable up to a 625 sq.ft. ADU size for a home of this size. However, in some areas of the city, such as Wards 3 and 7, the predominant single-family home size is much smaller, which would likely limit the maximum ADU size to just 400-550 sq.ft.
  • Approximately 20% of single-family home lots in the city are less than 6,000 sq.ft., with around 10% that are smaller than 4,000 sq.ft. This means that in many areas of the city where existing single-family lots are near, or in some cases are already over, the 35-40% lot coverage limits, creating an ADU that in any way expands the property’s impervious cover would not be permitted.

FAQs about this Policy

If the proposal incentivizes ADUs, how will the City ensure they are not all used as short-term rentals?

  • Some ADUs may be used as short-term rentals—owners realize many similar benefits from ADUs and short-term rentals. However, property owners who wish to rent an ADU as a short-term rental will be required to meet the zoning requirements for a short-term rental (see details here). Most specifically, a short-term rental would be subject to conditional use review and would be required to provide a parking space. Further, if an ADU is converted to a short-term rental after it has been used as another form of housing, it would be subject to the requirements of the Housing Replacement Ordinance. Lastly, any ADU that is used as a short-term rental, along with meeting all of the above criteria, will continue to be required to be owner-occupied.


How can we help make creating an ADU more accessible to homeowners?

  • Based on a 2017 survey of Burlington ADU owners, the top resources requested were technical assistance and a guide to ADU rules and the permitting process. The City and Homeshare VT received a grant to launch a pilot ADU Technical Assistance Program modeled after, and supported by, the successful ADU program in Brattleboro, VT. The program helps homeowners evaluate whether an ADU is right for them, the feasibility of creating one, and offers assistance on how to begin the process. Through this program, partners are further planning to create a design and assistance guide.
  • The change to the permitting requirements will also aid in making an ADU more accessible. Another top reported concern from the 2017 survey was the complexity of the City’s permitting process. It is intended that by allowing ADUs as a permitted use, rather than a conditional use, and by not mandating an on-site parking space, fewer applications will go before the DRB, thus reducing complexity, saving applicants time and permitting fees, and potentially narrowing the scope of physical improvements needed to create an ADU.