Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) Ordinance

ADU web graphic



As part of its efforts to support affordable housing, the City of Chattanooga is developing an ordinance that could allow for accessory dwelling units (ADUs) to be built within certain locations of the city.

Historically, ADUs have been built throughout the city dating back to the early 1900’s. When the zoning ordinance was adopted in 1961, it prohibited ADUs. Currently, ADUs are only permitted in the downtown Form Based Code area that was adopted by City Council in 2016.

There has been a request from the development and homeowner community to allow ADUs in other areas of the city due to the increase in urban infill development, change in housing type, and need for more affordable housing options.


What is an Accessory Dwelling Unit?

An accessory dwelling unit (ADU) is a secondary residential unit built on the same lot as an existing  home. ADUs are also referred to as granny flats, carriage houses or in-law suites.

ADUs can be created in a variety of ways, including conversion of a portion of an existing house such as a basement or attic, addition to an existing house, conversion of an existing garage or the construction of an entirely new building. They also can be used in many ways, including rental units, home offices, studios, guest houses, and housing for multi-generation households, offering flexibility to households living in single-family neighborhoods.

Benefits of ADUs include efficient use of existing developed land and public infrastructure, creation of affordable housing opportunities, increased income opportunity for home owners, and the opportunity to care for an elderly or disabled family member in an independent living arrangement.

Click here to download a Guide to ADU’s created by the Code Studio.

Click here to view a video that was created by the City of Asheville with more information describing how an ADU can be used.


Public Input

Survey – The City would like the help of the citizens to get a better understanding of how property owners and residents of Chattanooga feel about Accessory Dwelling Units, so the Regional Planning Agency is conducting a survey. This survey allows residents the opportunity to provide input on whether or not ADUs should be allowed in areas outside the Form Based Code. The results of the survey will guide the RPA with drafting the ordinance to help ensure the ordinance maintains the character of local neighborhoods and does not create negative impacts.

  Please click here to complete the survey.

Previous Public Meetings

  • The Regional Planning Agency staff presented to the City Council at an Agenda Session on Jan. 8th to discuss the progress of the ADU ordinance and get their feedback on adoption.  Click here to download a video of the hearing.
  • The Regional Planning Agency staff presented to the City Council at an Agenda Session on Sept. 4th to discuss the proposal to draft an ADU ordinance. Click here to download a video of the hearing.

Future Public Meetings

  • The RPA is scheduled to discuss the project again with the City Council on Feb. 5th during their Strategic Planning Meeting at 1:30 pm in the City Council Building at 1000 Lindsay St.
  • The RPA is hosting a public meeting on Feb. 11th at 2:30 pm after the Planning Commission monthly meeting.  There will be a brief presentation by staff and then those in attendance will have an opportunity to voice their support or opposition to the project as well as ask any questions. The meeting is located in the Hamilton County Courthouse on the 4th floor at 625 Georgia Ave.


Draft ADU Standards

Please read and review the draft standards. Click here for a handout with more information.



The City is looking for input on where ADUs should be allowed within Chattanooga. For example, would the community like to see ADUs allowed in residential areas everywhere in the city, only where short-term vacation rentals are allowed or within the Urban Overlay Zone? Regardless which boundary is selected, the proposed ADU regulations will not apply to the Form Based Code boundary (in red on maps below) because they are already allowed in this area.


Short-Term Vacation Rental Boundary


Urban Overlay Zone





If you have further questions or would like to share your feedback, contact the Regional Planning Agency or your local City Council representative. The staff is ready and willing to meet with you to discuss your questions or concerns, and wants to ensure that the Planning Commission and City Council have as much feedback as possible prior to making any final decisions on the ordinance.

For more information, contact Emily Wood, Principal Planner, at 423-643-5939 or