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Staff Photo / The bedroom of the Knutsons' Blue Ivy accessory dwelling unit is seen on Monday, Jan. 14, 2019, in Chattanooga, Tenn. An ordinance to allow accessory dwelling units, or secondary residential units also known as in-law suites or granny flats, in more areas of the city is now being considered by city officials.

The Chattanooga City Council paved the way Tuesday night for more housing units in the city with the passage of an ordinance allowing accessory dwelling units.

In a unanimous vote, the council began a process to change a local zoning ordinance that had barred such buildings. Local leaders had discussed passing such a plan for years. The council passed a first hearing on the change Tuesday evening, with a second vote scheduled for Tuesday.

The units, sometimes known as in-law suites, could be detached from an existing house or built above or below the house, including above garages.

The new rules state such units cannot exceed 700 square feet or be more than two stories, or 24 feet, in height. If the unit is attached to the main building, it cannot exceed the height of that home. One accessory dwelling unit is allowed for each single-family home and must be located on the same lot as the main home, either beside or behind the home.

The administration of Chattanooga Mayor Tim Kelly celebrated the move in a Wednesday morning news release, stating construction of such units could address the local housing shortage the administration estimates at more than 5,000 units.

"We've reached a critical point where many Chattanoogans are worried about being priced out of living in Chattanooga," Kelly said in a statement. "This ordinance offers an immediate opportunity for residents to increase their property values and the city's affordable housing supply, all while maintaining the character of our neighborhoods."

(READ MORE: Chattanooga church-led affordable housing development for seniors moves forward)

Affordable housing is one of several focuses of Kelly's "One Chattanooga" plan to improve the lives of residents over the next decade.

In March, Kelly announced plans for a $100 million affordable housing initiative over five years, which includes $33 million in seed money from the city. The project will involve public-private partnerships with nonprofit organizations, banks and other groups to expand the offerings of affordable housing.

The administration said in its news release the city is conducting a total redesign of the local zoning codes.

Contact Wyatt Massey at wmassey@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6249. Follow him on Twitter @news4mass.

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