Accessory dwelling units could alleviate housing shortage

Add additional housing capacity in your community in the form of accessory dwelling units.

Aerial view of subdivision with tightly packed houses.

What would you say if I told you there’s a way, available right now, to help alleviate the housing shortage?

According to the American Planning Association, an accessory dwelling unit (ADU) is a “smaller, independent residential dwelling unit located on the same lot as a stand-alone (i.e., detached) single-family home.” ADUs can be a converted portion of a single-family home and they can be detached. They also might be called by another name, such as granny flats, but the intent is the same, to add housing capacity.

On August 29, the City of Boyne City and the Boyne Area Chamber of Commerce hosted a community housing forum. This well-attended event started off with local zoning administrators sharing housing-friendly policies that are already in place. All of them noted that ADUs are already permitted in some districts in their municipalities, although some were allowed only through a special use permit.

Why should ADU codes be improved? Demographic data states that most households in the United States are now 1 and 2 person households. Yet, most of our legacy housing stock, and even our new residential housing stock, is designed for families of 4 or 5 people. That may have made sense 70 years ago, but things have changed.

ADUs are not a silver bullet for the housing issue, and they certainly won’t appeal to everyone, but they might be able to help. For information about ADU regulations in your community, contact your local zoning administrator and try hosting a housing forum in your community to assess housing needs.

Michigan State University Extension’s partner, Northern Lakes Economic Alliance (NLEA), is working to find viable solutions to provide more affordable workforce housing to communities in northern Michigan.

Michigan State University Extension has had a unique relationship with the regional economic development organization Northern Lakes Economic Alliance (NLEA) for more than 20 years. Recognizing the strength of combining resources, this partnership focuses on economic development, entrepreneurship growth and community infrastructure throughout a four-county region in the northwest Lower Peninsula, specifically Antrim, Charlevoix, Cheboygan and Emmet counties. As a result, the NLEA utilizes resources offered through MSU Extension as it provides leadership to statewide programs sponsored by MSU Extension.

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