Tuesday, June 26, 2007
So, you like "in theory" the idea of greater density of American housing development, but you're not exactly ready to buy into the extreme notion of abandoning the suburban ideal for a world in which everyone lives in high-rises and takes trams to work. What's a good place to start in changing the zoning laws of your community?
One way might be to allow accessory units in suburban neighborhoods. Not usually the "granny flats" that advocates often like to call them, such accessory units can be a second housing unit in a suburban lot -- a basement apartment, a second story unit above the garage, or even a small studio with bath in the backyard. The great benefits of such accessory housing are that it creates low-cost housing in areas that otherwise would financially exclude many citizens (especially young singles or the low-income elderly) and it makes the main house more affordable for more families. Here's an intelligent essay in the Rocky Mountain News, where Denver is reconsidering its zoning laws.
Some of the usual suburban objections to accessory housing can be addressed by changing the details of zoning laws, such as by prohibiting accessory separate units from being built right up against the neighbor's property. But the biggest objection -- although one might not hear it explicitly voiced very often -- is that it brings the wrong "type" of people into the suburban neighborhood.
Now, this isn't a reason to avoid supporting this first step toward greater density, is it?