Wednesday 21 March 2018
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Ask the Expert: Demographic Trends Revive the Popularity of Granny Flats

A floor over a garage remodeled to serve as a granny flat.

You may have heard more talk about accessory dwelling units or granny flats recently in Newport Beach and Laguna Beach. My last column covered the increase in multigenerational households, which make up approximately 20% of households now.

To address the trend, there has been a shift in construction and city planning.  Our communities are also adjusting and implementing accessory dwelling unit (ADU) ordinances. There are pros and cons for ADU’s and multigenerational households. Here are some of the highlights and lowlights.

When older relatives move in with family members, caregiving may become easier and can also be more cost effective as opposed to senior living facilities.  It turns out there are other notable benefits, too.  For instance when older people are living around younger people, like grandchildren, they are likely to remain more active, thereby keeping them healthier and possibly living longer.  Newsday also pointed out that the generations can learn from each other. For instance, our elders can teach our youth about retirement and hobbies that aren’t often taught nowadays, like sewing or fishing.  And our youth can impart knowledge on how social media works (i.e. how to use Facebook).  An Oxford University study shows that children of single parents who live with grandparents do better in school and have less emotional/behavioral problems.

Adult children or divorced adults are also packing up and moving back home. This scenario can be a win-win for all parties.  For those who moved back home, they can save money to buy a home, pay off student loans and other debts, and become financially secure.  If the adult children have kids of their own, then there are more hands on board to provide childcare. As for the person who shares their home with family, they can charge rent to cover household expenses and split up chores.

In some cultures it is more customary for extended family to live together under one roof.  A New York Times article pointed out that since the Asian and Hispanic population has been growing rapidly, it follows that we would see more multigenerational households domestically as well. Now that the trend is catching on more in our area, it makes it easier to find homes that cater to this arrangement.  Families that want to stick together can do so with more ease and less financial strain.

Of course there are some not so appealing issues. Like privacy – or lack thereof.  Parking can become difficult if a household doesn’t have enough, which can also be a nuisance for neighbors. ADUs and granny flats specifically are getting attention since state legislation effective January 2017 required cities to revise their regulations to allow these uses. Change can be confusing and people have lots of questions about the impact on our communities.  The bottom line is that there are plenty of different pros and cons to take into consideration.


By Holly McDonald

Holly Schwartz McDonald is a realtor with Villa Real Estate who lives in Newport Beach and has been featured on HGTV’s hit show “House Hunters.”  She can be reached at HSchwartz@VillaRealEstate.com.

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