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Phoenix approves backyard guest houses, bans them as short-term rentals

Phoenix homeowners will soon be able to build an extra home on their lots. On Wednesday, the City Council approved accessory dwelling units in backyards.

The vote means owners of detached single family homes can build backyard units with electricity and full kitchens and baths. Seven council members voted yes, along with Mayor Kate Gallego.

“We’ll be able to add housing within the existing footprint of the city of Phoenix as opposed to expanding boundaries,” she said.

The single no vote came from Councilman Jim Waring who said his district is worried about them being used for short-term rentals.

“The goal is meritorious, but I am concerned we’re kind of having trouble enforcing the rules that we have today,” he said.

The language prohibits guest houses or casitas for short-term rentals, but Deputy City Manager Alan Stephenson conceded, “If you have someone who really wants to break the rules, they will find a way to do that.”  

State lawmakers have made it difficult for cities to ban or tighten regulations on short term and vacation rentals. 

Vice Mayor Yassamin Ansari said the city’s policy change will lead to thousands of units “and gives many working and middle-income families in my district, and some of the others, the opportunity to receive additional income and keep their families close with generational living spaces.”

Phoenix’s policy takes effect in early November. It caps guest houses at 15 feet in height, although exceptions can be requested. They cannot be more than 75% of the primary home size. If the lot is under 10,000 square feet, then the guest house can be no larger than 1,000 square feet. If the lot is more than 10,000 square feet, it can be no larger than 3,000 square feet or 10% of the lot size, whichever is smaller.

As a senior field correspondent, Christina Estes focuses on stories that impact our economy, your wallet and public policy.