‘Granny Flats’ Are Finding a Bigger Purpose

Accessory dwelling units are increasingly being used by homeowners to add small secondary housing options on their property. These “granny flats” may be in the form of a converted garage or even a tiny home in an oversized backyard.

As more municipalities look to grant permits for these structures, some hope the trend can help alleviate housing shortages. Many forms of guest houses were deemed illegal in California up until recently. But a new law that took effect at the beginning of this year makes ADUs easier to add, leading to an upswing of these units in the state. If just 10 percent of California’s single-family homeowners added granny flats to their properties, 600,000 new units could be added to the state’s housing supply, according to USMondularInc, a firm that specializes in secondary housing units.

“California is in a housing crisis, and allowing people to modify their existing home or build a small cottage in their backyard will increase the rental supply at no cost to taxpayers,” state Sen. Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont, said in a statement late last year.

However, homeowners who put in a granny flat or convert a garage without permits could face a stiff penalty. Some homeowners have had to convert the areas back to their original purpose once city regulators discovered the change.  But as more lawmakers open up to the idea, housing analysts believe ADUs will gain popularity and spark more demand for properties that have them.

Ira Belgrade, who runs an organization called Yes In My Back Yard Los Angeles that helps homeowners build granny flats, says a homeowner could retrofit an existing 400-square-foot garage or other structure into a granny flat for about $30,000. “It could easily get to $50,000 or $75,000, but that’s money you’ll recoup over time,” Belgrade says. “You have to look at the value you’re adding to your home.”

Source: “Granny Flats Are on the Upswing – and They’re Not Just for Grannies Anymore,” San Gabriel Valley Tribune (Sept. 10, 2017)