So-called “granny flats”, or smaller homes built in back yards for aging parents or rentals, are being challenged in a number of cities in the U.S.
Los Angeles in particular has seen the “granny flat” battle heat up to epic proportions, with some homeowners who have recently bought permits to build a second unit on their single-family lot now being barred from actually building them. Officials had previously granted permission to build them, but now are refusing to hand over the necessary certificate of occupancy. This means that utility companies won’t connect these new units to the grid, making them essentially uninhabitable.
One argument goes that granny flats help to ease housing shortages, and are more affordable than care homes for some seniors. However, critics of granny flats argue that they spoil the character of neighborhoods and that there will be less parking spaces as more people move in.
These challenges mean it has become difficult to build a granny flat in many parts of the U.S.
In California, some cities have made it almost impossible to build a granny flat legally. For example, Pasadena now requires that each lot has a minimum of 15,000 sq. ft. of space in order to build one. The Washington Post reports that other cities have stated requirements such as an extra covered parking space for each unit built, and also exorbitant utility hookup fees that make it prohibitively expensive to build such structures.
Not every city is moving in that direction though. Some, such as Washington, D.C., have updated zoning regulations in the last few months in order to make it easier for homeowners to build and rent out second homes.
And in Los Angeles, Mayor Eric Garcetti is taking the side of granny flat proponents, and has vowed to remove some of the barriers to building them. Garcetti said it’s important to help make Los Angeles more affordable for some residents.
“We are determined to add needed units to communities without changing the look and feel of our neighborhoods,” Garcetti told The Washington Post. “The extra rental income could make the difference for a potential home owner between affording a mortgage or not.”