This story was edited by Kirsten Dirksen of faircompanies.com
One of the challenges faced by individual households and municipal governments alike in our current economic predicament is the need to become more efficient and to generate additional revenue without taking on new debt or obligations. The city of Lancaster, California recently changed its building and zoning codes to permit accessory dwelling units after decades of forbidding such arrangements. ADUs are also known as granny flats or backyard cottage apartments. Now homeowners in Lancaster have the option of building a second unit for supplemental living space or rental income. The city gets additional property tax revenue. The neighborhood gets pleasant, socially acceptable, and truly affordable housing. And not a single dime of public money needs to be spent on additional infrastructure in the process.
Chris Aune purchased a 1927 bungalow two blocks from his job in downtown Lancaster and converted his detached garage into an ADU as soon as the new regulations took effect. He then moved in to the new space and rented out the primary house. His mortgage is $800. He collects $1,200 in rent. When it comes time to start a family he can move back into the primary house and rent the garage apartment for $700 which will very nearly cover his mortgage. What’s not to love? So why are most towns continuing to forbid these arrangements?
Lancaster has some basic guidelines for ADUs which include:
A minimum lot size of 7,000 square feet
A maximum of one ADU per lot
The owner of the property must occupy one of the on-site units (either the main residence or the ADU) at least 6 months out of the year
A minimum ADU size of 400 square feet, but a maximum size no more than 10% of the lot area
One parking space either in a garage, in a carport, or on a paved driveway