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AARP AARP States Nebraska Livable Communities

Accessory Dwelling Units Provide Family-Friendly Housing Solutions for Changing Needs

Family Caregiver in an Accessory Dwelling Unit

Everyone deserves a place to call "home." That's why AARP Nebraska is proud to champion affordable housing. We've been working with both state and local leaders to remove barriers to affordable housing options. We're here, looking out for people of all ages, helping you choose where you live as you age.

In March 2024, Omaha City Council members will be holding a public hearing and vote for Ordinance 43728 to amend Chapter 55 of the Omaha Municipal Code pertaining to zoning regulations in favor of Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs). The Planning Board held a public hearing on December 6, 2023, and recommended the proposed amendment be approved. An adaptable form of housing, ADUs provide family-friendly, flexible housing solutions for changing needs.

An ADU is a small residence sharing a single-family lot with a larger, primary dwelling. An independent space, they’re self-contained with their own kitchen, bathroom, and sleeping area. ADUs may be located within, attached, or detached from the main residence—often converted from an existing structure, such as a garage, or built anew. Often found in cities, suburbs, and rural areas, they're generally less visible because of positioning behind or tucked within a larger home. Not only are ADUs a solution to the current Omaha housing shortage, but they can provide housing for family members under the care of another so they can continue to live independently and safely. Additionally, ADUs can be a place to call “home” for tenants seeking small, affordable priced rental housing.

ADUs are a great housing option for several reasons:

  • Create new housing units while respecting the look and scale of single-family developments.
  • Support efficient use of existing housing stock and infrastructure.
  • Provide housing that responds to changing family needs, smaller households, and increasing housing costs.
  • Provide accessible housing for seniors and persons with disabilities.
  • Offer environmentally friendly housing choices with less average space per person and smaller associated carbon footprints.

The amended code would allow an additional unit on a residential property and can be of several different forms. A detached unit would be a standalone structure, typically located in the backyard of a property. An attached unit is connected to part of the existing residential structure and would have its own foundation. An internal unit is integrated into the residential structure and is typically in a basement or sometimes in the attic. The proposed code would permit an ADU throughout the City of Omaha and Extra-Territorial Jurisdiction in higher density zoning districts.

The code would require a Conditional Use Permit (Planning Board approval) for lower density zoning and office/commercial districts. The amendment includes multiple regulations for this housing type, and includes, but is not limited to the following:

  • No more than one ADU allowed per site.
  • The ADU cannot be sold off separately from the primary residence.
  • Establishment of setbacks.
  • An increase of the maximum building and impervious coverages.
  • Height requirements.
  • No additional parking requirements.
  • An exemption of the site area/unit density calculation.

It should be noted that the City of Omaha is not party to private neighborhood covenants. There is the likelihood that an ADU would be prohibited by such covenants in several neighborhoods in the City of Omaha and Extra-Territorial Jurisdiction.

Additional Resources:

"An ADU for U" Omaha Design Competition:

In July 2023, AARP Nebraska announced the launch of a rare and unique Omaha architecture design competition called “An ADU for U.”

“The growing population of older adults in the Omaha area and across the U.S. is putting a squeeze on the supply of housing for this demographic. ADUs are an affordable but underutilized housing option that could be the answer for many families,” shared AARP Nebraska’s State Director Todd Stubbendieck.

The idea behind the competition was to increase awareness of how ADUs may be employed to help meet Omaha’s housing needs, including those of older adults. The initiative drew a positive response from various architecture and design firms with some choosing to submit multiple entries. Judging was conducted by a panel of housing experts. The panel was looking for viable, buildable ADU plans offering key design elements that were truly age-friendly and consistent with home styles in the area. Age-friendly features included step-free routes, removal of upper cabinetry, easily accessible controls, as well as placement of common household appliances such as microwaves and washer-dryers.

To learn more, visit the competition’s website at betterlivingdesign.org/anaduforucompetitionwinners or view the winning designs at betterlivingdesign.org/aduforomaha/winners.

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