Monday
December 22, 2014

Home Owners Press for Zoning Changes to Add Spaces

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Home Owners Press for Zoning Changes to Add Spaces

With more family members—adult children and aging parents included—moving in under the same roof in recent years, more home owners are pressing for zoning law changes so they can better accommodate their growing households. Other home owners are looking to cash in on a hot rental market by adding units to their single-family homes. 

“Many suburban communities have long made it difficult, or impossible, for home owners to convert underused space—barns, garages and basements—into rental apartments,” The Wall Street Journal reports. “But across the U.S., home owners are pressing for changes in zoning laws to allow rentals while home builders report a rise in demand for houses with in-law suites or quarters with separate entry.”

Some communities are concerned that adding rental apartments to suburban, single-family homes could strain public utilities, overcrowd schools, and cause traffic and parking problems. Others allow home owners to have multiple units in their single-family homes, but they may require that the home owner still occupy at least one portion of the home and that there is adequate parking and utility capacity. Still others ban homes from being rented out and even the construction of kitchens or full bathrooms in areas that could potentially be rented out. The ban has brought about a growing number of illegal rental conversions in single-family homes, The Wall Street Journal reports. 

Prompted by the Great Recession, more households have been “doubling up” to curb housing costs. For example, one in five college graduates age 25 to 34 are living with their parents, according to the Pew Research Center. The number of shared households—not counting a spouse—has increased 11.4 percent from 2007 to 2010, according to the U.S. Census data. The booming rental market has prompted others to add accessory apartments in their home so they can bring in tenants for extra income potential.

"In some markets, like Washington, New York, San Francisco, [people] can't rent something in the areas they want to rent and they don't want to commute two hours away,” Mark Obrinsky, chief economist for the National Multi Housing Council, told The Wall Street Journal. "This may be making some communities more open to rentals and to think about housing more broadly than they have."

Source: “Multiple Families, One Roof,” The Wall Street Journal (July 18, 2012)