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Granny Flats: A second building on a property as a home for an aging parent or relative.

granny flats: a second building on a property as a home for an aging parent or relative.

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Published date:

February 22, 2016

Last updated date:

February 22, 2016

By Manny Manriquez

They are referred to by a wide variety of names: Granny flats, mother-in-law cottages, granny cottages, elder cottages, and granny pods, among others. They are the product of the renovation of an existing building (either attached or detached) or the new construction of a second building on a property as a home for an aging parent or other relative. In other cases, a pre-built cottage or “tiny house” constructed by an outside company may be transported to the site and situated on the lot of a single family home. To be considered a second housing unit, the cottage or renovated building must contain completely separate and individually sustainable living areas, including a kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, and living area. Having Mom or Dad (or both) living nearby as part of the family – yet maintaining a degree of privacy for all concerned – can be a perfect solution when the time comes for an older parent to move to a new setting where they are less “on their own.” It's a way for the elder to downsize from a large home to a simpler manner of living, yet be close to their family and even avoid a move to a “retirement community.” Formally known as Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU), their legality is dependent on local zoning ordinances and HOA rules, but over the past several years, more and more governments and city councils are approving the introduction of additional housing structures on residential property plots. The potential advantages for a landowner are obvious. Adding additional housing to a lot should – for the most part – increase the overall value of the land. However, this does not portend a windfall for absentee landlords. Zoning laws across the U.S. spell out very specific restrictions on the development of granny cottages. Chief among nearly all of them is the simple requirement that a landowner must reside in at least one of the housing structures. Of course, those present landowners benefit from a possible increase in the value of the land and, if they intend to rent the cottage or structure, the income from that. But, local governments are clearly intent on maintaining the “spirit” of the trend: To provide convenient and affordable housing for seniors near the homes of their extended families. There is very little “wiggle room” as zoning commissions and neighborhoods are adamant about maintaining acceptable levels of residential density. If you are considering renovating or building an ADU or mother-in-law cottage, be cautious and carefully research the local laws and limitations. Still, even in cases where local ordinances prohibit such a dwellings, an exemption may be made. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development provides an interesting report on this trend. Click here to read: Granny Flats: An Assessment of Economic and Land Use Issues At, we're happy to see local governments embracing creative ways to make land more beneficial and productive for owners and the community as a whole. CBS News Video: Granny Pods: Save

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