Tuesday, January 31, 2017

"The Times They Are A-Changin' For The Way We Look At Dwellings"

The tiny house movement has caught the attention of many people wanting a simpler lifestyle or a smaller footprint - or both. People are able to own and move into a home that would have been considered very small by traditional standards until very recently.

Millennials are attracted to these smaller homes as are people looking to retire and those who want the flexibility of having a small home to travel about with them.

One aspect of the tiny homes that perhaps wasn't envisioned at the outset was the use of them as auxiliary dwellings. There are many other such buildings that serve as auxiliary dwellings, but the tiny home has been at the center of it.

In addition to the tiny home are other small dwellings that collectively are considered auxiliary dwellings or auxiliary dwelling units ("AD"s or"ADU"s). Some are referred to as accessory dwellings also. Other names for these secondary dwellings are transitional home and granny-pods.

Regardless of their name, their function as an independent living facility in the backyard of a relative (son, daughter, brother, sister, or parent) is the same. They can also be used as rental apartments, playrooms, dens, studios, workshops, and more at various times.

These small, self-contained homes offering a living area, sleeping area (sometimes in the same room), cooking and bath areas occupy just a few hundred square feet on one level that is extremely accessible and user-friendly and are located within view of the the main residence just a few steps away. The actual design and configuration of the home is less of a concern that the concept itself.

There needs to be an education as the local jurisdiction level of what these smaller dwellings can mean for the mental, physical, and emotional health or families and individuals. They are beginning to catch on, but more cities need to embrace them through their local zoning and building codes. They don't fit into traditional ordinances because of their size, layout, and additional density. Instead of having just one home or dwelling on a property, there now can be two or more.

Typically, zoning and building requirements - and homeowner association deeds, covenants, and restrictions of various sorts - stipulate how close to the property line (setbacks) buildings (even auxiliary or accessory buildings) can be placed, how much distance there must be between adjacent structures, how many people can occupy a residence, how many bedrooms there must be at a minimum for occupancy, and how many separate inhabitable structures can exist on a single building lot or residential property.

The AD or ADU offers many advantages for families, such as not having the main dwelling modified in any way to accommodate an aging parent moving in - unless there is a desire to renovate the hall or secondary bathroom to facilitate access when the parents are visiting from across the backyard.

Additionally, the parents or other elderly relatives have their independence but live under the watchful eye of the main home. 

Auxiliary dwellings can provide a quick, easy, and inexpensive solution to moving parents or other loved ones onto the property and still letting them have their independence - without a major remodel of the main dwelling to redo bathrooms, hallways, and entrances and provide new or reconfigured sleeping areas.

It's time for regulating agencies to get on board and recognize the value of ADUs and similar structures as solutions for aging-in-place.

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Steve HoffackerCAPS, CEAC, SHSS, is a licensed Certified Aging-In-Place Specialist-Instructor and best-selling author of universal design books. To learn about this and other programs for aging-in-place or universal design, visit stevehoffacker.com or call 561-685-5555.