The Mt. Pleasant landscape is full of variety when it comes to housing. From old historic homes to new builds, decades–old dormitories to modern apartments.
But, there’s one missing piece to the puzzle, and that’s Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU). Reading the technical term, a person might think they’ve never heard of an ADU, or they’ve never seen one before, but there are dozens scattered around the city.
Mt. Pleasant City Planner Jacob Kain says there are a few different types of ADUs, but they are essentially any kind of separate housing unit which resides on the property of, or is attached to, a current residence.
An already existing attached or detached garage unit could be utilized as an ADU, or a new unit can be added to a residence with the intention of becoming an ADU. Either way, the unit would need to have access to all the amenities included in any other type of home, like water, electricity, a place to sleep, a bathroom facility and a place to cook and store food.
Kain says there are several benefits of having an ADU, for both residents and homeowners. An ADU creates potential low-income housing for those who can’t afford to buy a home or rent a standard apartment.
They can also be used as something called a “Granny Flat,” which Kain says is a place for an elderly or aging family member to live an independent lifestyle, while staying close to their family.
For homeowners, the benefit is the supplemental income brought in by the monthly rental cost of the ADU. This benefit is what inspired Sean Staricha and his wife to purchase their home at 931/931 ½ S. Fancher St.
Staricha says they actually didn’t know about ADUs when they first purchased the property; they just knew there was an attached unit and assumed they could rent it out for the extra money.
There is also another home included on the property, which they currently rent out as well. However, because there couldn’t be more than one rental on the premises, they had to split the property in half, leaving the rental home on its own plot and the Staricha’s home and ADU on the other plot.
The ADU at 931 1/2 Fancher St. needed to have windows replaced in order to bring it up to code.
After Staricha was made aware of ADU guidelines and connected with the city, the preparation for his ADU began. For the most part, he says the unit was ready to go, but a few adjustments, like increasing the size of the windows, needed to be made to bring it up to code.
Once the unit is ready and a tenant moves in, Staricha says it and the additional rental home will help cover their monthly mortgage.
“We initially bought the property knowing that it had potential for rental income, so pretty much, I think it was like 75% of our mortgage should be paid by these rental units that are on this property,” he says. “So our living cost is going to be a lot lower than it would be if we would just had a single home property.”
Because Staricha was expecting to be able to rent right away when he and his wife purchased the property, he says they’re on crunch time with bringing everything up to code.
With the money that they have available right now, he says they can just about cover their mortgage, but they’ll need the supplemental income as soon as possible.
As of right now, he anticipates that the unit will be ready to rent out by early July. Both water and electric did receive an update as a part of the renovations, and Staricha has just wrapped up making changes to the windows.
“Most of the renovations we're doing in this place are just to make it safe. Like, for example, the new windows are because of the fire code,” Staricha says. “There's a certain amount of cubic feet in the opening when the windows open to climb out; we had to put bigger windows in.”
Before moving to Mt. Pleasant, the Starichas lived downstate near Detroit to attend college after Staricha got out of the Marine Corps. The couple is originally from much further upstate, and they decided to move to Mt. Pleasant to be closer to home, and so Staricha’s wife could work toward her PhD at Central Michigan University
931/931 ½ S. Fancher St. is actually the first property that the Starichas have owned. To some, bringing in a new tenant might seem like a daunting task, but the Starichas have got it covered.
“With the income, we can afford to pay a management company to actually deal with all that,” Staricha says. “So we don't ever interact with any of the tenants, ever, or do any service calls or anything like that.”
If ADUs have so many benefits, then why aren’t they more well known? It comes down to zoning laws.
Kain says, in the city of Mt. Pleasant ADUs weren’t legal from 1962 to 2018. Since then, the zoning laws have been updated to allow for the addition of ADUs, both new and old.
ADUs that were present before, like Staricha’s, are now able to become occupied, and new ADU builds are being encouraged.
To date, there are about 54 existing ADUs in Mt. Pleasant, and Kain says the city is hoping that the interest in these alternative housing options will start to increase.
Kain says city staff have prepared several example building plans for potential ADUs, so when a resident decides to begin the process, they already have guidelines to go off of.
As more ADUs become a part of the Mt. Pleasant infrastructure, Kain is hoping it will help the city get back to its architectural roots. Much of the city’s available housing options are single family homes, and he says ADUs will contribute to a new diversity of Mt. Pleasant housing.
The Staricha's also have a rental home that serves as supplemental income.
Staricha says 931 S. Fancher St. is likely not his family’s forever home, but he expects they’ll be residing there long term. His experience with ADUs has been a lesson in making the most of your real estate, and he encourages others to consider locking in on what he feels is a reliable investment.
“With the way the inflation is going right now, regardless of the market, it's a secure way of ensuring that your investment is going to be there,” he says. “If there's a recession, the property value is gonna drop, but after that recession, it's going to come back up; so as long as you don't sell it during the recession, you aren’t losing anything.”
Staricha says his advice for those looking to purchase real estate is to do more research before closing the deal, regardless of what their realtor says.