Access MHK is an initiative whereby a committee of local individuals, area agencies, and organizations are exploring the creation of a policy for the City that would allow Manhattan homeowners (people that own and live on a property) to have a small, secondary dwelling (called an accessory dwelling unit). The goals of allowing this housing type in Manhattan are to...
- Create quality affordable housing.
- Increase access to home ownership.
- Provide housing for the aging and disabled.
- Increase local investment and attract talent.
- Stabilize and revitalize aging neighborhoods.
- Improve rental conditions and owner-renter relations.
- Reduce sprawl and increase community resiliency.
What is an Accessory Dwelling Unit?
An accessory dwelling unit (or ADU) is a smaller, separate living unit within, attached to, or sometimes independent of a single-family house. They are typically within a home, in a basement or upper floor, above a garage, or in a small detached structure in a backyard. They are sometimes called Granny Flats, Secondary Dwellings, Sidekick Houses, Garden Suites, Lane Houses, Backyard Cottages, and Mother-in-law Suites. ADUs could be rented out by the homeowner for supplemental income or be occupied by friends, family, or caregivers for free.
It is important to understand that ADUs are not duplexes. Duplexes have no limits to size, arrangement, bedrooms, tenancy, ownership, or design. ADUs on the other hand would follow the basic framework to…
- Only be allowed on an owner-occupied property.
- Be limited in size and location as to minimize visual and physical impact.
- Have design requirements as to be compatible with the principal home.
- Have occupancy limits stricter than traditional rental units.
- Be specially registered and regularly inspected to ensure quality and compliance.
There is also more accountability for renter behavior with ADUs since the owner lives on the property with the tenant, making them more sensitive and responsive to nuisances, property maintenance issues, and tenant behavior.
Addressing the Goals
The goals of Access MHK are...
1. Creating Affordable Housing
ADUs creates opportunity for affordable housing with virtually zero public subsidies. Affordable housing is a major issue in Manhattan and the surrounding area. It is the 2nd most expensive metropolitan area in Kansas. Over half of households in Riley County are considered burdened with housing costs (spending more than 30% of income on housing). Allowing homeowners to have ADUs gives them the opportunity to significantly subsidize their mortgage with rental income, with the potential of easily cutting their monthly payment in half. ADUs can also be affordable for renters, because they are often rented at below-market rates or for free to friends and family.
2. Increasing Access to Home Ownership
Decreasing the cost of home ownership and creating an economic opportunity through building an ADU makes transitioning into home ownership and staying in home ownership more affordable, easier, and more attractive. This is especially a challenge for young families looking to plant roots in Manhattan and build equity by buying a home.
3. Providing Housing for the Aging and Disabled
The 2018 Riley County Community Health Needs Assessment found "affordable housing" and "independent living in the home" to be the top needs of older adults in the county. ADUs can also help older residents remain in their neighborhoods and “age in place”. They give the aging the option to live on the same property with their families while maintaining their independence.They can provide housing for a hired caregiver for those with disabilities or those who need assistance. For homeowners looking to downsize, an ADU can be a more appealing option than moving into an apartment or to a senior facility. For these reasons, ADUs are heavily endorsed by AARP. This is especially viable in Manhattan, where assisted living costs are rapidly increasing.
4. Increasing Local Investment and Attracting Talent
The majority of multi-family rental properties in Manhattan are owned by people and entities that live outside of the Manhattan region. Because ADUs are tied to an owner-occupied property. In essence, rent dollars associated with those apartments are flowing out of the community, and are less likely to be reinvested in Manhattan or even in the State of Kansas. Since ADUs would be owner-occupied, rent dollars would go to people that live and work in Manhattan and be more likely to recirculate in the local economy, while contributing more to sales tax and property tax.
ADUs also provide more housing options and economic opportunities for people looking to locate in Manhattan. Many other peer cities in the region already allow ADUs, including Lawrence, Kansas; Fayetteville Arkansas; Boulder, Colorado; Lincoln, Nebraska; Columbia, Missouri; and College Station, Texas; and many more. Adopting a policy to allow ADUs in Manhattan would keep Manhattan competitive with these cities.
5. Stabilizing and Revitalizing Neighborhoods
Allowing homeowners to have ADUs creates an incentive for homeowners to live in areas of higher rental demand to take advantage of and harness their rental market. These areas may be more neglected, in need of rehabilitation and reinvestment. Increased home ownership in these areas would provide more long-term investment and stability for them, without displacing renters.
6. Improving Rental Conditions and Owner-Renter Relations
Homeowners and renters in Manhattan tend to butt heads. Manhattan’s transient population results in about 62% of its living units to be renter-occupied. But homeowners and renters mutually benefit from the ADU model. Homeowners can take advantage of Manhattan’s high renter population by providing housing for them. At the same time, renters can benefit from higher-quality living conditions in more neglected areas of town.
7. Reducing Sprawl and Increasing Community Resiliency
ADUs reduce the cost of infrastructure and the fiscal impact of sprawl. By providing subtle density to existing neighborhoods, additional housing can be accommodated within Manhattan without having to expand and maintain expensive infrastructure like streets, water lines, wastewater lines, and stormwater infrastructure. This puts less strain on tax payer dollars.
Current Policy on ADUs
Due to zoning restrictions, ADUs are effectively prohibited in about 95% of Manhattan. Yet, there are estimated to be over 100 owner-occupied properties in Manhattan that have a second unit functioning like an ADU. Most of these homes are grandfathered from a time before Manhattan had single-family zoning in those areas. This, combined with a recent increase in interest from homeowners in Manhattan requesting an ADU emphasizes the need to explore the creation of a policy that would expand opportunity to home owners and is reflective of our values as a community. This is what Access MHK is about.
Through about Spring 2020, City Administration will work with local individuals, area agencies, and organizations to assess the need for a policy allowing ADUs in Manhattan and help develop a policy to allow them. Groups involved include:
- Kansas Housing Resources Corporation
- Manhattan Housing Authority
- Flint Hills Area Builders Association
- Manhattan Chamber of Commerce
- Center on Aging
- Flint Hills Wellness Coalition
- Manhattan Chamber of Commerce
- Manhattan Urban Area Planning Board
- Renters Together
- Kansas State University
- Flint Hills Association of Realtors
- Multiple Citizen Groups
Want to know more?
To find out more about ADUs or ways to get involved with the Access MHK initiative, call or email Ben Chmiel. And check back with this page for ongoing project updates!