Grandma Never Had It So Good


 I would like to introduce you to a wonderful article published last month in The New York Times titled, “Grandma Never Had It So Good” The story discusses the progress made in Portland to popularize and facilitate the development of second units. Please take a moment to see the many ways this effective and timely housing and investment strategy has enriched families. Second units are a great option for creating a reliable income stream. The return on investment can be instantly recognized in the increased value of your home, sometimes exceeding development costs. However, there are many other compelling reasons for creating one of these living spaces on your property.

Second units build flexibility into your housing plan.  On average, our needs in our homes change every ten years.  Sometimes we need extra room, other times extra income, or others extra help if we have small children or need a personal aid.  With a second unit you can also house loved ones, such as children or parents, or people who work in our community.  It is a lovely way to build community since you get to hand pick your neighbors!

There are three basic types of second units: small cottage homes, conversions of existing structures such as a garage, or repurposed spare rooms in the existing living space of a home.  Each type of second unit has a different cost associated with development, but all give homeowners access to a dynamic rental market that ensures a solid return on investment.  

There is work to be done here in Marin if we are going to realize the opportunity to develop second units, as they have done in Portland.  These units, known in local building codes as accessory dwelling units or ADUs, have requirements for development that vary by municipality with some districts having higher permitting fees than others. However, all ADUs are subject to parking and fire sprinkler requirements that deter many homeowners from going through proper channels.

Unfortunately, un-permitted second units often do not comply with public building and safety codes or serve the whole of the community by increasing a home’s property taxes according to the increase in value. Given that fact, it would be in the community’s interest to reduce or eliminate fees and restrictive requirements, encouraging compliance with local and state building codes and increasing the accessed tax value to account for the growth. 

Second Units provide local businesses with more employees and a larger client base. They generate business for the remodeling industry and the real estate industry by offering access to the housing market through an additional revenue stream.  They help us maintain and enhance socially and economically diverse, and multi-generational communities.  And they help us fulfill our housing allocation requirements without having to construct new buildings using precious resources to meet our housing needs.  

Are you a resident who could increase your income by creating a Second Unit?  If so, please contact us to learn more.