The Great Debate About Granny Houses

There are many big cities today where people simply can’t afford to live anymore because of the cost of housing. Rent in places like Los Angeles cost as little as $2,000 per month for a one bedroom unit. Some families aren’t able to live in a one bedroom home and yet can’t afford anything bigger either. These are typically working or middle class families who are struggling to survive as it is. Many of them decided to build a small home (a.k.a. “granny flat” or “secondary house”) on the lot of a family member, meaning where one house should sit, two homes now sit.

Secondary homes could answer our nation’s housing issues, if states would allow them to.

Unfortunately, many people in these same neighborhoods find themselves fighting against this happening. They say there’s not enough parking, the homes destroy the neighborhood’s character (referring to both the social aspects and the physical design), and whether such homes would even constitute affordable housing. As such, the state pulled building permits in many of these neighborhoods leaving some occupants of these homes living in them without electricity or running water so they can survive. To date, several hundred property owners find themselves caught in some type of similar limbo situation.
While this is occurring in cities like Los Angeles, in other cities, like Washington D.C, laws were passed allowing for such housing. They feel this won’t only allow for more affordable housing for those who choose to live in these second houses, but it also allows the property renter to afford their mortgage in a time when housing prices continue soaring.
Many cities are now passing laws to make it impossible for people to build these second homes. An example of this is taking place in Pasadena where you’re required to have a 15,000 square foot lot to build such a home upon. This hasn’t stopped people who are frantic to find a place to live from creating such dwellings anyways.
Massachusetts is yet another state facing this issue, especially near Boston. Currently there’s a bill pending in the legislature to promote more of this type of housing development, but it looks doomed. This is precisely what happened in California when the Superior Court said this housing violated zoning regulations. Nonetheless, this is an issue more states must consider before our nation’s homeless continues skyrocketing due to unaffordable housing prices. The only difference this time is many families find themselves negatively affected.


What do you think? Should these homes be allowed? Should rent be more reasonable? What’s your experience in this regard?


  1. Andria Perry

    If I am understanding this correctly, its about building a smaller house on the same property as the main house, here we call those mother in law houses and many properties have these. I would love one on mine to rent out.

    Rent in Alabama is SO MUCH cheaper that L.A.

    I stumbled this article.

  2. Pat Z Anthony

    Buildings like the ones you mention would be great on a property where a larger home already exists. One company we read about-we commented they should never use the word Granny and should have a name that suits all people. The issue with Tiny Houses or one bedroom homes we have faced here is that many are concerned about their property values. However, many homes here include a garage with an apartment above. It seems those apartments and small cottages or Tiny Homes in the back would solve a lot of issues.

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