What if Single-family Homes House Multiple Households?

APA Colorado Chapter


Friday, October 6, 2017
9:20 a.m. - 10:20 a.m. MDT

CM | 1

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Neighborhoods of single-family detached houses are the bedrock of most U.S. communities.  But as pressures for affordable housing grow throughout Colorado, there is growing pressure to allow multi-family occupancy of single-family homes by more than one family. This session will explore the pressures behind this new trend, and what can or should be done to protect the essential character or these neighborhoods – or how to accommodate these trends with minimal impact on surrounding areas.

Learning Objectives:

1. Learn about the current serious mismatch between our supply of larger single-family housing and the emerging demands for different forms of housing.

2.Learn why some areas will be able to defend their single-family housing character – while other areas will not.

3.Learn about zoning and land development regulation that can be used to either resist or accommodate the trend towards multifamily occupancy of single-family housing.


  1. Introduction to the topic and why it is important.
  2. The current serious mismatch between housing supplies and demands.
    1. The supply of larger lot single-family detached housing
    2. The demand for smaller housing units

                                                              i.      Driven by personal preferences

                                                            ii.      Driven by affordability

  1. The logical result of this mismatch – growing pressure for multi-family occupancy of single-family structures
    1. Multi-generational households
    2. Unrelated households without structural alterations’
    3. Unrelated households with structural alterations
    4. The Portland Oregon single-family conversion study
  2. The varying ability to “hold the line” against multi-family occupancy
    1. Governmental enforcement vs. Private enforcement
    2. Rich versus poor neighborhoods
    3. Strong HOAs vs weak HOAs
    4. The risk of making many people illegal occupants
  3. Strategies
    1. Revising zoning ordinances
    2. Getting creative about ADUs (Accessory Dwelling Units)
    3. Requiring Conditional use Approvals or other Permits
    4. Revising the definition of family or household
  4. Conclusion – finding the strategy that is right for your community

Discussion – Questions and Answers

CM Criteria:

1.    This session addresses a clear and growing, but poorly understood demographic trend throughout the Rocky Mountain west and is designed to educate participants about both the trend and the possible responses to it. None of the participants have a particular approach or case-study to highlight that would make the content promotional. While drawing on a case-study from Portland, OR, none of the participants were involved in creating that study,

2.    The session is led by three experienced planners who all have significant experience in evaluating, designing, revising or enforcing housing strategies.

3.    The session uses an educational format based on presentation of real-life experiences from the presenters, followed by interactive questions and discussion regarding specific housing occupancy situations/contexts in the attendees communities.

4.    Session attendance will be recorded, and an evaluation form will be provided to participants to identify areas that could be improved, and to offer participants an opportunity to pose questions that the presenters will answer after the event.

5.    The organizer is a responsible point of contact for administration of the session with significant experience in organizing and administering CM sessions in the past.


Donald Elliott, FAICP

Confirmed Speaker

Donald L. Elliott is a Director with Clarion Associates, LLC, a national land use consulting firm. Don’s practice focuses on land planning and zoning and international land and urban development issues. He is the author of A Better Way to Zone (Island Press 2008), co-author of The Rules that ... Read More

Tina Axelrad

Confirmed Speaker

Tina Axelrad is the Zoning Administrator for the City and County of Denver, Colorado, responsible for oversight of all zoning permitting functions in the city and a work program including business practice improvements, performance monitoring, continuing education and new staff training, and public communications. Previously, Tina was a Principal City ... Read More

Travis Parker, AICP

Confirmed Speaker

Mr. Parker has been Planning Director for Lakewood, CO since August 2011. Since that time he has led the updates of the Lakewood zoning code and comprehensive plan as well as developed the City's first sustainability plan and lead major planning efforts surrounding the West Corridor light rail. His ... Read More

Contact Info

Shelia Booth, sbooth@apacolorado.org