How increasing the number of in-law suites, granny flats, and backyard houses can assist the housing problem
The idea of a nuclear family living in a standalone home with a lush grass and white picket fence still conjures up images of the American dream for many people.
Within the context of a longer history of housing and development in the U.S., this ideal is, nevertheless, relatively recent. Additionally, it’s a goal that is getting harder and harder to achieve.
As professors of architecture, we investigate how cities evolve over time and how social, political, technological, and economic changes influence how specific building trends spread throughout society.
Because of homogenized zoning laws that promote single-family homes and developers’ desire for low-cost. Easily replicable building plans, the United States has lost a wide range of housing options over the past century.
Because of how widespread these development guidelines are, it is currently forbidden to construct anything other than a single-family home on 75% of residential land in American cities. Single-family zoning limits the availability of affordable housing, which raises costs, causes evictions, and promotes segregation.
Access the ADU
In the 19th and early 20th centuries, different forms of living arrangements within families, towns, and pieces of land were much more prevalent.
A variety of housing structures, including duplexes and triplexes, cooperative housing, and multifamily apartment buildings, were developed to accommodate these living arrangements.
ADUs, often known as “granny flats,” “backyard homes,” “in-law suites,” or “backyard cottages,” are another type of auxiliary housing unit.
All of these words basically relate to the same thing: an additional housing unit on a single lot that is normally lower in size than the primary residence. They come with all the necessary conveniences, such as a kitchen and a bathroom, as well as a separate entrance from the main house. ADUs can be built from the ground up or converted from pre-existing spaces, such as garages, basements, or attics. They can be joined to or detached from an existing house.
Although small homes and van life may have caught your attention, the ADU was the first kind of compact housing.
ADUs are not a new concept, yet many Americans are unaware of them. A recent study revealed that 32% of homeowners wanted to have one on their property once they knew about it. 71% of homeowners were unaware of the notion.
the’missing middle’ should be addressed
Both desired and required are more types of housing.
Working from home, aging in place, and a homeownership market that excludes younger folks are all recent trends that call for housing types that are hard to come by in a single-family housing-dominated market.
We think ADUs should be a more prevalent housing option. Because of their advantages in the social, economic, and environmental spheres.
ADUs support sustainability objectives primarily through promoting density. The ADU subtly increases density in existing neighborhoods, enabling them to access the infrastructure grid rather than clearing another lot in a wide suburb for a new single-family home. As they promote shorter journeys, they can also result in lower emissions.
Because ADUs are smaller, they can be passively chilled and use less electricity. They also require less building materials to build and less energy to heat. When these are combined, the building’s energy costs are decreased. Prefabricated ADUs can also be bought outright, which cuts down on building time even further and can avoid paperwork requirements.
Site inspections, for instance, can reduce expenses and waste.
ADUs can move quickly. By razing entire towns—often communities of color—in order to create brand-new districts through urban renewal initiatives. Twentieth-century forms of development frequently used a scorched-earth approach to redevelopment.
ADUs don’t cause problems in the neighborhood. Because they don’t involve purchasing additional property, they assist increase density by bringing in new residents from various backgrounds. Neighborhoods attract more small enterprises as their populations increase. With more people in a particular location, coffee shops, restaurants, and grocery stores are more likely to thrive.
Additionally, ADUs can provide much-needed “missing middle” housing. Many recent neighborhood projects advertise themselves as “luxury” and aim to capitalize on strong markets by raising prices. Government housing agencies and charity developers frequently create affordable housing in an effort to address the urgent housing requirements at the lower end of the income spectrum.
As an alternative, housing for middle-class families is frequently not subsidized through conventional government funding channels. But it nevertheless meets a demand that many for-profit builders are unable to. These are often more modest residences meant to fit a range of budgets and lifestyles. That might apply to a lot of ADUs.
Finally, there are several advantages to ADUs at the level of the household.
In keeping with its nickname as a “granny flat,” ADUs provide the option for multigenerational living. They frequently have only one level, making it simpler for elderly family members to age in place. But they also give younger people, who might not be able to buy a larger single-family house, room and privacy.
ADUs can occasionally be rented out or used as vacation rentals. They can stop the rise in rental prices by introducing more units to the already-existing rental market. For homeowners that require assistance with their mortgage repayment, they can also offer passive income.
California is a pioneer.
ADUs do face a lot of pushback, for sure.
It frequently comes up from locals who worry that there won’t be enough parking places to accommodate new neighbors and that increasing the number of homes in their communities would lower property values.
Similar to this, administrative obstacles occasionally deter homeowners who might otherwise be interested in owning their own ADU. Sometimes, six or seven different permits are needed, which causes work to be severely delayed.
Los Angeles has taken a distinctive stance on favor of ADUs. The city just introduced its Accessory Dwelling Unit Standard Plan Program, which gives builders and homeowners a choice of 20 preapproved ADU types. Plans include everything from a studio building that is less than 400 square feet to a house that is 1,200 square feet and has three bedrooms.
The state of California additionally provides homeowners with a $40,000 subsidy to encourage the development of ADUs in order to make them more accessible to homeowners as conversion or construction is still quite expensive and out of reach for many. In the meantime, CityLAB at UCLA, a university-affiliated research institute, created a manual for homeowners planning to construct one of these tiny homes. The manual offers a step-by-step procedure to help people identify the financiers, designers, and contractors they need and coach them through the information needed to submit an application to the city.
The several steps California has taken have mainly proven successful. According to the UC Berkeley Center for Community Innovation, the number of ADU permits climbed from 9,000 in 2018 to 12,392 in 2020.
Pittsburgh is putting an ADU pilot project to the test in a few neighborhoods after learning about the success of ADU legislation in places like Los Angeles and Seattle. ADU-banning regulations are currently being overturned by legislation being advanced in Cincinnati.
Solutions to the nation’s housing dilemma will necessitate reevaluating current practices and redefining what housing development and neighborhood cohesion entail. One of such alternatives could be ADUs.
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