Granny flats stir the development pot in Ann Arbor

The city of Ann Arbor is proposing to rewrite the regulations governing accessory dwelling units, making it easier for home owners to build a small apartment into their principal residence. Such units are usually used by family members who come to live in the same building but want their own space, like an elderly parent, thus earning them the name granny flats.

"It can be attached or detached," says Chris Cheng, city planner for the city of Ann Arbor. "It could be in your basement or attic or an addition to your house. Or you could build over your garage as a carriage house."

Of course when people heard anything about rental units the immediate reaction is to fear further sprawl of student housing across the city. You can read more about these concerns in an Ann Arbor News story here. Concentrate also covered this topic last year. You can read the article here.

But are these fears real concerns over a rule change that could unintentionally harm the livability of a neighborhood, or NIMBYs freaking out over the idea of change? Cheng and his colleagues at the city are going the extra mile to assuage those who fear the worst.

"We are maxing the total number of occupants at two and capping the square footage at 600 square feet," Cheng says. "It also has to be owner-occupied."

Meaning you can’t just add a unit into your home and then sell it as a student-rental duplex. If the next owner wants to keep the rental unit they have to live in the main structure. Also, the units must be registered with the city. The idea is to help create a little more density in the city by creating more room for bigger families or making small spaces for college students or working people to live affordably.

"This isn't going to solve Ann Arbor’s affordable housing crisis," Cheng says. "It is one more tool in the toolbox."

Source: Chris Cheng, city planner for the city of Ann Arbor
Writer: Jon Zemke

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