Granny Pods Spark Controversy as Demand for Affordable Housing Continues

Otherwise known as accessory dwelling units, the add-on living spaces offer an alternative to apartments and senior living homes.



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In the Hudson Valley, the struggle to find affordable housing is real. That’s not to say that there aren’t options; on the contrary, budget-minded solutions are on the rise in the region, thanks to developments like 40 Cannon in Poughkeepsie and The Kingstonian in Kingston.

In 2019, however, another affordable trend has the potential to make an impact on the Valley. Accessory dwelling units, or ADUs, offer alternatives for extended families who don’t want to outsource care to nursing homes or senior centers and to college students who want to keep living costs down as they work off tuition fees. Sometimes known as “granny pods” or “mother-in-law” apartments, the spaces function as accessory units on already-existing homes. They can be located in a separate building in the backyard, in an apartment over a garage, or even in a converted basement.

The pros for such spaces are numerous. Convenient access to family, proximity to town centers, and decreased living costs tempt seniors, students, and moderate-income earners alike. The cons, meanwhile, tend to focus on the overall impact of such residences within community geography. Arguments against ADUs suggest that too many of these developments could damage an area’s small-town character and transform it into an overly metropolitan space.

Locally, Hudson River counties take a divided stance on ADUs. Residents of Rockland County are perhaps the most vocal against the rise of granny pods in the region. The county government even has an online complaint form available for residents to report illegal developments or uses of housing structures.


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Other counties offer varied notices for individuals interested in ADU developments. On a page for prospective tenants, Westchester County Government mentions accessory apartments as a potential option for those who do not want to go through brokers. For senior citizens, Dutchess County suggests elder cottage housing opportunities, dubbed ECHO housing, for residents who want to remain in close proximity to family. The micro-homes can be installed in backyards, and often contain scaled-down versions of standard home features. In terms of spatial requirements, the separate properties can take up anywhere from 400 to 800 square feet.

Within each county, development restrictions vary from one city to the next. In Hudson, accessory units cannot exceed 15 feet in height or occupy more than 35 percent of a yard. Over in Cornwall-on-Hudson, any accessory building cannot have a floor area greater than 400 square feet or 10 percent of the floor area of the main building, whichever is larger. As with all planned developments, early government approval must be obtained. In addition, prospective builders must check local zoning laws and garner an OK from power, water, and sewer operators as well.

Do you own an accessory dwelling unit? Do you know someone who lives in an ADU? Let us know what you think of them in the comments or send us an email to edit@hvmag.com.


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