Prospect Newtown, an iconic New Urbanist development in Longmont, CO, has seamlessly integrated affordable housing by creating a host of accessory dwelling units, or ADUs. Unlike much of the affordable housing found in other places that end up being segregated from the rest of the community, Prospect’s ADUs are perfectly blended within the town overall—and actually help contribute to the development’s success.
Set on the 80-acre site of his family’s former tree farm only a 10-minute drive from Boulder, the project was conceived of by developer Kiki Wallace in the mid-1990s. Attracted to New Urbanism’s tenets of walkable, livable communities, Wallace decided to create a development based on these ideals.
Wallace hired renown New Urbanist architects Duany Plater-Zyberk (DPZ) to carry out his vision. Over the last twenty years, and throughout multiple building phases, Prospect has become a thriving new kind of suburban community. Kids run along sidewalks on narrow tree-lined streets, a town center beckons locals with shops, restaurants, and offices, along with a community park, and a mix of home types—including townhomes, detached houses, live/work spaces, and lofts above retail—attract residents with a variety of architectural styles.
ADUs are a vital component of this plan. Originally, city ordinances required that 10% of new housing needed to be affordable, with no specifics to how this should be done. As a result, Wallace and DPZ decided that ADUs would fill this role. Set above detached garages or behind homes, and generally around 500-650 square feet, these units rent for around $1,000 and are eminently popular with renters and homeowners alike. “By virtue of their location, they act as naturally occurring affordable housing,” says Wallace. “There’s no need to mandate or regulate them.” There are currently around 325 townhomes, condos, lofts, and houses in Prospect—and some 150 additional ADUs.
First and foremost, the planners knew that ADUs had to appeal to homeowners to make them successful. To ensure that “homeowners don’t feel threatened and that renters have privacy” as Wallace describes, thoughtful design included creating separate entrances, making sure that ADUs’ windows didn’t look into the backyard, and placing them behind homes so they feel distinct from the main residence. Though initially the first owners of ADUs all said they wouldn’t rent them out, within six months, all of the first ADUs were completely rented since as Wallace says, “There’s no invasion of privacy, and they bring in subsidies for the landlord.”
Moreover, unlike most affordable housing projects, these ADUs are absorbed into their surroundings. “It has long been DPZ’s conviction that too large a concentration of affordable housing in isolated enclaves exacerbates social tensions,” says DPZ Senior Project Manager Xavier Iglesias. “We advocate a finer-grained distribution of housing options and more seamless transitions between neighborhoods.” Built at the same time and in the same style as the main house, the Prospect ADUs easily blend into their neighborhoods, only visible to passers-by if they know what to look for.
The result of ADUs on the larger community has also been a great boon. “Having socioeconomic diversity in the community supports retail, creates more urban energy, and brings another layer of culture to Prospect that we wouldn’t otherwise have,” Wallace says. “If we didn’t have ADUs, it would have been monotonous there.”
Only three years away from planned completion of the whole development, Prospect can be deemed a great success. “People know their neighbors, there’s a lot of community interaction, people walk places. All traits of New Urbanism are unfolding here, and ADUs play a big part,” Wallace says. And can this inclusion of ADUs be replicated elsewhere? “You could do that anywhere. It’s just a matter of commitment—and doing it.”