I filmed this short video in a small town in Ohio to show what new accessory dwelling units can be like when the local authorities permit them. My friend Kirsten Dirksen here did a great job editing the story and I encourage people to check out her site for many similar videos.
Alex and his wife are pragmatic. They wanted to live in the charming town of Yellow Springs, Ohio but there weren’t many good rental options. As a young couple they didn’t immediately have the cash on hand to buy a traditional single family home. So they bought a vacant lot in an established historic neighborhood and created a long term plan that began with the construction of a super insulated 300 square foot backyard cottage. Their living expenses were extremely low so after a couple of years they were able to save and build a more traditional 1,800 square foot home on the front of the lot. The cottage was a kind of economic slingshot. It helped that Alex and his business partner Andrew Kline are part of a design/build team here.
The back cottage can now be offered as a rental unit to help offset their new mortgage, or be pressed into service as a home office or guest house for family and friends. They understand that as they age the cottage could house their future adult children, aging relatives, caretakers, and so on. It could even serve as an economic lifeboat if money should ever become tight and they needed to live in the cottage again and rent out the larger house in order to make ends meet. There’s a lot of flexibility in this arrangement. The combination of the larger home and the tiny cottage makes this particular property more valuable on the open market while providing the community with an affordable housing unit at no cost to the public purse and without the stigma of “affordable housing”.
The town of Yellow Springs itself is a large part of why an accessory dwelling unit works. It’s a walkable, bikeable town where a car is just one of several transportation options. Commerce and conviviality are a couple of blocks away along the traditional Main Street. Children can walk to school. Many people can walk to work. Older people have access to their daily needs on foot. Nature, parks, and productive farmland are also within a reasonable walk or short bike ride from every home in town.
As Alex says in the video, the town essentially serves as their living room. The little cottage doesn’t have to provide every imaginable feature since you can walk down the street and find cafes, theaters, parks, and shops. Those public amenities take a lot of pressure off the tiny house.