Cluster homes allowed in Kill Devil Hills low density residential zones

Published 7:17 am Tuesday, July 26, 2022

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The Town of Kill Devil Hills is continuing to expand affordable housing options by allowing “cluster homes” in zones designated low density residential.

Cluster homes are distinct from multi-family dwellings in that each home is a single-family detached unit, separated from other cluster homes by at least 10 feet. Homes may share a driveway or septic system. Developers can determine the size of the home and the number of bedrooms according to their preferences.

Unlike cottage courts which are solely rentals, cluster homes can be rentals or they can be sold individually. Large employers in the Outer Banks may, for example, purchase cluster homes to use as employee housing.

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The zoning amendment added cluster homes as a special use in Low Density Residential Zones – which is primarily the residential area west of Hwy 158 – with stipulations. The residences must be built between 500 and 1500 square feet, must have a density of 12 units per acre and must be for long-term housing only.

Long term housing is defined as a minimum of 31 consecutive days. The amendment is designed to provide affordable housing to the workforce in the Outer Banks. With the explosion of websites like VRBO and Airbnb, many rentals that used to be available for long-term tenants have been converted to nightly or weekly rentals, causing a shortage of options for people living and working in the Outer Banks.

Cluster homes can provide a large number of homes in a relatively small area, with square footage limitations designed to keep the prices at affordable levels.

The ordinance builds in language that will ensure that the properties are kept for long-term rentals, such as executing a long-term use agreement prior to issuing the building permit that states that the dwelling unit shall be used only for long-term occupancy. If the property is sold, this agreement will transfer with the property.

“This amendment is intended to mitigate the long term housing needs while promoting the use to construct cluster home(s),” said assistant planning director Cameron Ray in an email to The Coastland Times dated July 14.

Kill Devil Hills has been working on legislation to address the housing crisis since April. In May, the planning board began work on language to add cluster homes to the zoning ordinance. Commissioners adopted the changes at the July 11 commissioners meeting.