CivicLex Info Hub

Why could Accessory Dwelling Units be coming to Lexington?

Sectors: Development & Housing, Community Design

Council Districts: All of Lexington

Issue Sections

Quick Summary

Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) are essentially a secondary, smaller residential space that exists on a lot in tandem with a traditional single-family house. They can be a whole separate structure, an above-garage apartment, a basement apartment, or something else entirely.

As of now, ADUs are illegal in nearly all Lexington-Fayette County’s Residential Zones, but the City’s Division of Planning is exploring changing that throughout the city with a Zoning Ordinance Text Amendment.

The Division of Planning is doing this in partnership with the City’s Division of Senior Services, with the goal of providing additional housing options and beginning to address housing affordability for aging seniors.

Why does this matter?

  • According to the recent Fayette County Housing Demand Study, the most significant growth in housing needs between 2015-2025 will be for aging seniors – of the 21k new householders anticipated during this time, 52.8% will be over the age of 65. ADUs have been described as a part of a possible solution for this housing gap.
  • Due to their size, studies have shown that ADUs are typically cheaper to construct than typical Affordable Housing units. While not a total solution to the issue of Affordable Housing, they have been shown to have a positive impact on the issue.
  • Due to our Urban Service Boundary, there is a fixed amount of developable land in Lexington that can be built upon. While there is still vacant and underutilized land across the city that can be developed, ADUs would help Lexington become more dense by allowing homeowners to add an residential structures to their lot.

What is the context?

  • Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) have been a strategy used in cities across the world to deal with issues of affordable senior living, and addressing housing affordability overall. They have been publicly advocated for in Lexington in recent years as part of a potential for our Affordable Housing issues.
  • A recent study by Portland State University shows that ADUs can positively impact housing affordability in a community, unless they are used for short-term rentals, like Airbnb.
  • The City last tried to attempt to tackle ADUs in a public way in 2009, when a number of Text Amendments were introduced to tackle issues of Infill & Redevelopment. Every amendment was passed except ADUs.
  • The city’s approach to ADUs will mandate that the property-owner must reside in one of structures on the property.
  • The Division of Planning is creating a companion design manual to address issues of ADUs fitting into the context of neighborhoods.
  • Some have expressed concern that ADUs will create problems with parking, traffic congestion, and increased rental properties in residential neighborhoods.

How can I get involved?

  • Talk to your friends, family, and neighbors about how they feel about housing issues in Lexington.
  • Attend your Neighborhood Association Meeting. If you don’t know what your neighborhood association is, talk to your council member.
  • Get in touch with your council member–your council member can let you know what they are doing around this issue. You can find out who your council member is here.
  • Reach out to the Division of Planning, you can contact them via email:
  • The Division of Planning expects that public input sessions for ADU legislation will begin in late winter of 2018 and early spring of 2019. We’ll post updates here once those dates are announced.
  • The Text Amendment will more than likely be introduced in spring 2019, meetings will be posted here once they are announced.


  1. US Department of Housing and Urban Development: Accessory Dwelling Units: Case Study
  2. Lexington Herald Leader: Could adding small units on lots with houses solve Lexington’s infill woes?
  3. Strong Towns: How Lexington can expand affordable housing (without touching the UGB)
  4. Fayette County Housing Demand Study
  5. HUD: Accessory Dwelling Units Increase Affordable Housing in Washington State
  6. ADU Update: Early Lessons and Impacts of California’s State and Local Policy Changes
  7. Smiley Pete: Can we crowdsource our way to more housing?
  8. Portland Tribune: ADUs often more affordable, except when short-term rentals