Pro-granny flats ordinance moves forward in Ann Arbor

Granny flats are a major step closer to coming to a college town near you. An ordinance that would allow the addition of granny flats, technically known as accessory dwelling units, to single-family homes in the city of Ann Arbor has been recommended for approval by the city's Planning Commission. A vote for approval of the ordinance could come before the end of summer.

Accessory dwelling units are small apartments homeowners building on their property. It could be anything from constructing a mother-in-law suite above a garage or a basement apartment for a son who just graduated. Theses units are typically used to house family members while giving them their own private space or to allow older people to generate a little rental income.

"They increase the opportunities for the homeowner to age in place," says Chris Cheng, planner for the city of Ann Arbor.

The ordinance has run into some opposition from people who are afraid this will open the door to create more student rentals in traditionally family oriented neighborhoods. And there has also been the predictable backlash of NIMBYs who don’t react well to change.

However, Cheng says the city has taken steps to help ensure this doesn't turn into a loophole for owners of single-family homes to turn them into student-rental duplexes. For instance, the property must be the homeowner’s principal residence except for temporary absences up to six months.

"We are trying to make this as simple as we can but still keep up with the neighborhood concerns," Cheng says.

The granny flats ordinance received its first reading in front of Ann Arbor's City Council earlier this month. The second reading is set for Aug. 4. Once that happens the City Council can vote on it or table the issue.

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

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