If you are of retirement age and you want to downsize and stay in your own home community, affordability and availability can be major challenges. If you are lucky enough to own your home in a neighborhood where the housing prices have appreciated, you can get a wad of cash from the legions of millennials who are desperate to get into a single family home. Taking that buy out and finding something smaller and manageable in your own turf, may prove difficult if not impossible.
What are your options? Buy a small condo, or a townhouse with too many stairs or pay top dollar for a live-on-one-level rancher or cape cod style home. In Canada and in the Pacific Northwest, Accessory Dwelling Units have become even more popular options as affordable, sustainable alternatives for almost two decades. If I stop here and give you a zoning definition of an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU), it would be too specifically local and the bureaucratic tone would probably make you stop reading.
ADU aka know as lane-way house, granny flat, in law suite. My definition is you add a living space/structure directly to your home or situate a smaller dwelling on your property. You can live in that new space and rent out the rest or stay on an extended bottom floor and have other family move in. You may create space for a future caregiver.
If I could stop at this simple definition, you could imagine a frugal but cozy house (without a lofted bedroom). Maybe something totally modern, sustainable or that matches the style of your original home. Space wise they are usually under 800 square feet in space. Costs vary per location and materials. You could imagine how a great addition or backyard unit could bring together multiple family configurations over generations.
But of course it is more complicated than that. Just some of the prohibitions I have read in different geographic areas include:
The main house can not become a rental unit
You can not build an ADU if you already have a basement suite.
You can not build if your existing zoning is maxed out
The new unit can not be larger than the original structure
Every request must go in front of a public hearing
Styles of the two dwellings must match (or no modernistic styles)
Another future concern would be school age children adding to the school district
For now, I read more objections coming up than encouragement in other parts of the country. The Not in My Neighbor sentiment is strong and if you live in such a Home Owners Association community where they tell you what colors you can paint your house, don’t bet on making proactive use of your property.
Affordable, creative solutions for senior as well as family housing are going to have to come from somewhere. Be aware of how ADUs could impact your plans and your community.
For a more comprehensive primer go to: https://www.citylab.com/design/2017/11/how-cities-get-granny-flats-wrong/546392/?utm_source=atlfb