The city of Tucson’s planning and development services announced it’s launching a competition directed at architects and designers.

To participate, these professionals will submit designs of casitas, or accessory dwelling units (ADUs), to help streamline the planning and building process for the city and future homeowners.

AARP is funding the competition with the 2023 Community Challenge grant in order to “enhance further efforts in promoting casitas as an inclusive and adaptable housing option for the community.”

Dan Bursuck, who is a part of Tucson’s development department, said the team met with officials from other cities, like Seattle and Houston, that already have programs like this in place to gather inspiration for Tucson’s version.

The ADUs, although smaller than most houses, can still be costly as the prices of materials have risen over the last few years.

But the demand is still there.

In December of 2021, Mayor Romero and the Council passed a new law that made building ADUs easier.

Since then, Tucson has received at least 80 applications to build casitas. Thirty-two are currently in the building and inspection process, and three of those are already finished.

Bursuck said this competition helps provide fresh ideas for building these units on a budget.

Some of those might end up being things like prefabricated or manufactured housing or potentially modular units that could be constructed in a factory somewhere instead of on-site and then brought to the site and kind of put there,” he said.

“So, there is some innovation going on right now that is hopefully helping reduce some of those costs because it still is pretty expensive to construct these units.

The city of Tucson is accepting designs through Sept. 18.

People in the community will be able to voice their favorites through a survey, and then the top contenders will go to a panel of professionals for the final vote.

The ten best designs will be featured on the Casitas in Tucson webpage where homeowners can explore their options. And winners will receive a $1,000 prize from AARP as well as permit fees waived for any unit built.

Overall, Bursuck said they’re looking for innovative and creative designs that meet the needs of Tucsonans.

Whether thats low-cost construction materials, whether thats different orientations that it can fit on different lots, or just accessibility issues to support living in ayou know, aging in a place for some of our older members in our community,” he said.

“Were really excited to see the different ideas that come out of this competition.