Parental suites a partial solution to the housing crisis

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Would you like to generate additional income by owning a rental property? Are you looking for a nearby and affordable home for your aging parents? Need a place for your recent college graduate until he finds a job? You might be lucky.

More lawmakers across the country are passing legislation allowing homeowners to add separate living space to their single-family homes, whether it’s a freestanding structure in the backyard, an apartment in the basement. -floor or an apartment above the garage. Officially known as accessory housing units, or ADUs, they are often referred to as sheds, garden cabins, grandma’s apartments, or in-laws’ suites.

What ADUs have in common is that they are a secondary structure built on the property of an existing house, they are smaller than the existing house, and they have their own entrance. , kitchen and bathroom.

Over the past year, statewide laws encouraging the construction of ADUs have been passed or come into effect in California, New York, Oregon and Connecticut. Lawmakers have passed ADU-friendly rules and regulations in municipalities as diverse as Alexandria, Virginia; Chicago; Edmonds, Washington; Evanston, Illinois; Maplewood and Princeton, New Jersey; and Missoula, Mont. The Portland, Oregon city council, long a leader in this field, unanimously passed bylaws in April that accept RVs and mini-houses on wheels as legal dwellings on residential properties.

“People are finally realizing that there is a housing crisis, and professional planners and politicians are paying attention and responding to it,” says Kol Peterson, consultant in Portland and author of “Backdoor Revolution: The Definitive Guide to ADU Development “.

Connecticut’s reforms, enacted in June, exemplify the changes lawmakers are making. “It provides for long-awaited statewide zoning reforms, including legalizing secondary suites, resolving obsolete parking mandates, and training planning and zoning commissioners who are the frontline decision-makers. zoning line, ”said Gloria Chin of the Regional Plan Association, an independent regional planning nonprofit focused on Connecticut, New Jersey and New York.

Peterson, Chin and others have said the new laws will not instantly increase ADU construction. Mortgage lenders, architects and builders should also learn about and be familiar with accessory units.

The owners too. My colleague Dee Gill wrote a three-part primer on how to finance and build secondary suites to give homeowners a solid understanding of the different types of ADUs and how to estimate whether potential rent income will cover costs.

Part one focuses on ADU basement conversions, a common type of internal ADU (others being a garage conversion or an attached townhouse). Part two describes the process of building a separate backyard ADU. The final installment calculates the financing and leasing of an ADU, providing examples of costs and rents in several locations.

It seems that no one is collecting comprehensive national statistics on the construction of new ADUs. Freddie Mac, the mortgage finance agency, sifted through 600 million real estate listings dating back to the late 1990s, looking for keywords associated with ADUs, and identified 1.4 million distinct single-family properties with secondary housing.

Local statistics give an idea of ​​the popularity of ADUs in individual markets. Los Angeles, for example, issued building permits for 4,171 ADUs in 2018, up from 117 two years earlier. Secondary suites accounted for 20% of all permits in 2018, although the city does not know how many were for new construction or just to legalize units built illegally in the past.

Minneapolis, on the other hand, has only issued 137 permits for ADUs in the four years since ancillary units were legalized in 2001. That could be about to change, however. At the end of 2018, the city council adopted the Minneapolis 2040 Comprehensive Plan, one of the objectives of which is the abolition of the zoning of single-family homes in favor of duplexes and triplexes.

Oregon adopted a similar goal in June 2019. Other cities and towns are exploring alternatives to encourage public adoption of secondary suites. San Jose, California, for its part, offers pre-approved and out-of-the-box ADU plans.

“Many jurisdictions are experimenting with ways to speed up the process,” says Peterson.

City planners and government officials are embracing secondary suites because they see it as at least a partial solution to housing shortages in many parts of the country. Freddie Mac says the country had 3.8 million fewer homes than needed in 2020, a 50% increase in just two years.

The shortage of small, affordable and self-catering dwellings is particularly troublesome for the growing number of people aged 70 and over, many of whom find it difficult to stay in their current homes because of stairs or bathroom fixtures and yet are wary of care offered in residences for the elderly. retirement institutions and communities.

Maren McMillan kisses her mother, Patsy Spitta, in the backyard of Patsy’s home in Altadena, California. Several laws have been passed authorizing the construction of houses in backyards.


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