Cities’ interest in granny flats at ‘fever pitch’ amid U.S. housing crisis
by Carey L. Biron, MAY 20, 2019, Reuters
WASHINGTON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – The U.S. capital is one of the most expensive cities in the country, but Derek Wright hopes to cover his housing costs with a novel strategy that local officials are keen to foster: He is becoming a small-scale landlord.
Very small-scale, that is. Wright is applying for a permit to turn his townhouse’s basement into a separate home, the rent from which he expects will cover more than half of his mortgage.
These types of projects are technically known as accessory dwelling units (ADUs), but are also called “granny flats”, “mother-in-law suites” or “English basements”….
And they are gaining popularity around the country, said Cheryl Cort, policy director for the non-profit Coalition for Smarter Growth, as policymakers in expensive cities look to them as a way to boost affordable housing.
Granny flats offer a low-cost housing solution because the land is already paid for, she said, and they are often built in more central parts of the city.
They have long been allowed in Washington, but in 2016 city officials tweaked the application rules with the aim of making the process easier, said Cort.
The city struck down various prohibitions and made it so “a homeowner can build one as a matter of right, for the most part,” she added.
Ileana Schinder, the architect who worked with Fazio and Wright on the designs and city approvals for their projects, said she has overseen the construction of about 20 granny flats in Washington over the past few years — and interest is climbing.
Many of Schinder’s prospective clients have been young families looking for additional income so they can stay in the city, as well as older people who need the financial boost to continue living in their homes….
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