A few hundred square feet in the corner of Sam and Sara Taylor’s backyard is now home to two new Broomfield residents.
The Taylors fulfilled a dream they’ve had since 2019 of building an accessory dwelling unit in their backyard, and last week a ribbon cutting occurred to commemorate its completion. The 462-square-foot home is the first legal accessory dwelling unit in Broomfield, and the build proved a learning experience for both the Taylors and city officials.
The couple is renting out the unit for a few years as part of a long-term plan. Ultimately, they intend to move into the unit so caregivers can live in their home with their disabled son Benjamin.
“We’d been trying to find a house to buy in the neighborhood. Because, I mean, when we’re not with Benjamin we still have to be close by because his needs are really specific and really complex,” Sara said after the ribbon cutting. “But of course, the houses in the neighborhood are getting more and more expensive and … we’re going to be over who knows how far away.”
Sara remembers attending an ADU workshop by the city and county in 2019, and it clicked: “Look, we could put it in the backyard,” she recalled.
While other residents have converted garages into ADUs or built other structures, they technically aren’t legal, Sam explained. The two chose to go through the formal process and are intentionally renting out the unit at an affordable rate. But while they played by the rules, it wasn’t always easy.
“The process for building this was just ridiculous. We had to get surveys and soil tests,” Sara said. “Even though the ordinance says it’s just like an accessory building on the property, the permitting process was as if it’s a new house. It was insane … We need to have a specific code for accessory dwelling units, because they ran all of this as if it was a house, which is expensive and unnecessary and we’ll never get a bunch of accessory dwelling units if it’s not affordable.”
Sam said the two have been vocal through the process with City Council, and several councilmembers and Mayor Guyleen Castriotta attended the ribbon cutting to get a sense of the unit and the process.
“We want people to look at it and say, ‘OK, it can be done, how can we do it better?’”
Sam described the city and county as being cautious and ensuring the structure was high-quality.
“We thought it was a little overkill. But Broomfield’s been like that since its founding, being a master plan community. Everything has to be planned and organized, that’s what we do.”
The Taylors admit their ADU is just one small relief in the affordable housing crisis. For Nicole Stoodley, it “was like finding a unicorn.”
Stoodley, 28, and her longtime boyfriend Neil Henry moved from Florida and were temporarily living in Henry’s bosses’ basement before finding the ADU.
“Neil and I were looking for apartments in the Westminster/Broomfield area because he’ll work in Boulder and I’ll work in Aurora. We were looking at all these complexes and they charge all these crazy fees and have all these amenities that we don’t really need,” Stoodley said.
Stoodley said Henry loves Reddit forums and, knowing it was a shot in the dark, created a post saying they were looking for housing in the area. Sam and Sara’s daughter saw the post and told Henry about what her parents were building. The two couples connected, and Stoodley and Henry moved in Friday.
Sara said she wants to name the ADU “serendipity” because of the way finding Stoodley and Henry worked out.
Sam, who used to served on City Council, said one of the reasons he wanted to construct the ADU was from some of his experiences on the Council when entities dreamed of building affordable housing, but the surrounding neighbors had the same sentiment — “not in my backyard” — often shorthanded to NIMBY.
“All I hear is NIMBYs, NIMBYs, NIMBYs. ‘Oh, we love it, but not here, it doesn’t fit the neighborhood,’” Sam said. “So instead of being a ‘not in my backyard,’ we’re literally, ‘yes in my backyard.’”
There was no incentive from the city and county to build the structure and rent it out affordably. Sam said they’re charging 30% of 50% of Broomfield’s area median income, which came out to $1,200, including utilities for the one-bed, one-bath home.