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BBC – Capital – Garages – the new affordable houses?

Would you ever set up a home in someone else's garage?

More and more people are asking, "Why not?"

Let's consider just how hard it is for people to afford housing in big cities. From Berlin to Singapore to Stockholm, rents have soared. And forget buying: research last year has shown that 40% of young adults in England, for example, can not afford even the cheapest homes in their area – even with just a 10% deposit

Could living in a converted garage be an answer?

Maybe. In parts of the United States, the lack of affordable housing means garage conversions are taking off, especially in the United States. In car-centric Los Angeles, for example, 117 garage conversion permits were issued to residents in 201

6 – but in 2018, thanks to a change in the law, that number racked up to 4,171

In Los Angeles, 117 garage conversion permits were issued to residents in 2016 – but in 2018 that number rocketed to 4,171

These garage flats could represent much more than the opportunity for an extra stream of income for homeowners.

'Essentially invisible'

In an April CityLab article, three urban planning experts made the case for how single-family California's housing crisis. They point out how the number of garage conversions has rocketed in Los Angeles – a city brimming with garages.

"Is this an opportunity to swap cars for people?" Asks Anne Brown, assistant professor at the University of Oregon and co- author of the CityLab article. "The really interesting thing is that this type of housing is basically invisible – the built environment [of the neighbourhood] will not look that different."

In other words, it's a way of housing more people, houses,

So, who lives in these garages? Boomerang kids, older relatives who need care, Airbnb guests. And this shift is not limited to converted garages. Backyard cottages, repurposed garden shacks, these famously twee tiny homes – they are all known as ADUs, or accessory dwelling units. In the UK, they are sometimes known as granny flats or annexes, referring to the intergenerational nature of these units

The potential of a garage

Cherry Tung is a YouTuber living in Los Angeles who found her converted garage flat on a Chinese version of Craigslist. She says the biggest reason she chose was the price: rent is $ 950 a month, compared to a more typical $ 2,000 in her area. She has a kitchen, a bathroom and a wall that separates the living and bedrooms.

"It's actually decent. I have enough space for myself and two cats. It's relatively quiet, cheap, no upstairs, and a separate entry from my landlord, "Tung says. "The garage rental situations are pretty common on Chinese Craigslist."

Today's tool shed can be your gran's pied-a-terre tomorrow

She thinks that garage flats could help deal with affordable housing problems, but caveats that with "The legality of it can be quite tricky and risky, depending on local laws and regulations."

That's something fellow LA resident Ira Belgrade knows all too well. He and his wife ran their own talent agency in Hollywood. But after his wife died 10 years ago, Belgrade relied on rent from his converted garage, now a two-story house, as an extra stream of income.

"Everything fell apart in my life. I had a two-and-a-half-year-old son and I needed to make my mortgage, "he says. "If I could convert the whole [garage]make it a kitchen, I could rent the whole thing out. The city said no. "But he did it anyway. Four years after he successfully (but illegally) rent out the finished space to a tenant he found on Craigslist, an anonymous neighbour reported the activity to the city's authorities

Belgrade became one of the city's most vocal advocates to make ADU permits easier to obtain. That law was finally passed in 2017, following a state-wide law, which led to that increase of permits in LA. Now, not only does Belgrade continue to rent his converted garage, but he runs his own company that helps others navigate the legal waters of building an ADU

Since the law changed in 2017, LA has "seen more than 1,000 % increase in the number of permits requested by homeowners to build both new construction ADUs and convert existing structures – garages and pool houses, for example – to ADUs, "says Alex Comisar, press secretary for Eric Garcetti, mayor of Los Angeles [19659002] Los Angeles is not the only city on the West Coast where this trend is on the rise. Portland and Seattle, in the US states of Oregon of Washington respectively, have also prioritized ADU development. Plus, around 200km north lies another world leader: Vancouver, in the Canadian province of British Columbia. (And, yes, you guessed it – rents in all three cities have steadily climbed over the past couple of years.)

The Vancouver versions of converted garages are called "laneway houses": tiny units, but still around 700 to 1000 square feet – enough for a studio space, bedroom and bathroom. They are built on the city's extensive grid of very small side streets (laneways) that snake their way between the houses. The city says in the past 10 years, over 4,000 new lane-houses have been built, and it hopes to add another 4,000 in the next 10 years

The city says over the past 10 years, over 4,000 new laneway homes have been "Even though we have been doing laneways for a decade, there has been a pretty marked upswing," says Graham Anderson, community planner at the city of Vancouver . "It is adding new housing choice – a gentle form of providing new density that does not result in mass redevelopment."

As demand for affordable housing has become bigger than ever, a 2018 survey found that 90% of 200 cities polled were considered unaffordable – these cities have eased up the relevant planning laws. In LA, there were over 50,000 illegally run ADUs of all types before 2016.

ADUs have become increasingly the norm in Vancouver too. The city says that 75% of new, single-family homes in the city – about 800 a year – are already built with either a laneway house or some kind of secondary suite. For urban planners, this is a blindingly bright signal, and some cities should pounce on. We have "potential housing at our fingertips. It's very low-hanging fruit, "says Brown. "And we would grab it."

Helping homelessness?

Besides adding to the overall housing stock, could ADUs help fight homelessness? LA hopes so.

Los Angeles County saw a 12% increase in homelessness since last year, and the city proper saw a 16% climb. Nearly 60,000 people in the county were sleeping rough during a January count, Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority revealed.

Last October, a big philanthropy firm donated $ 1 million to LA to help Angelenos turn their garages into dwelling units for that very useful as part of a new pilot program. (19659002) "We thought, what a great way to add to the many strategies that we have to try to end the homelessness in LA to try to match the people who are building these units with folks who are coming off the streets, "Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said in a radio interview in October

Press secretary Commissioner says" homeowners will be part of the solution to endless homelessness, and will benefit from steady rental income and increased home equity. "LA's goal by 2022 is to" house at least 200 housing-insecure people across nearly 150 ADUs. "

The California researchers also highlight "I have friends [in LA] who moved into the garage and rented out the house itself," Brown says. [19659002] So, what did that old California law require? That each single-family home has two covered parking spaces off the street. But no more.

Donald Shoup, urban planning professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, who worked on the garage project with Anne Brown, estimates that it costs around $ 80,000 to convert a garage into a flat. Before the laws were relaxed in California, many of those illegal conversions led to electric fire, as the buildings were not necessarily up to city standards.

Shipping it elsewhere

Places like LA or Vancouver have idiosyncrasies that might make the plan difficult to transfer beyond the North American West Coast, like the car-centric nature of these cities. But for any big city that thrives on driving, garage ADUs could have a huge impact on urban planning in the future. It's why locations outside North America, like New Zealand, have recently begun to explore the potential of ADUs in their cities.

"There is a bigger idea in planning – especially in a car-centric place – that it is a worrying symptom of the housing crisis rather than a solution. planning gets driven too much by the needs of how we park our cars, what happens to them, "says Vinit Mukhija, professor of urban planning at UCLA, who collaborated with Shoup and Brown. "It takes over, increases housing costs, becomes the driving force – everything starts getting driven by this one factor. We're hoping to change that. We do not have to provide so much off-street parking. "

Instead, people can park their cars on their driveways and turn their garages into homes for people. Especially those who can not afford any kind of house.

Shoup thinks that more cities can identify ways to house people in already-existing structures (like garages), and make it easier to

This might take the form of basement flats in New York, Shoup says. For example, one setup could be a "richer family and a lower income young tenant, especially near universities. This allows for more diversity in a single-family neighborhood – people who otherwise would not be able to live in a good neighborhood. "

If the numbers are any indication, garage conversions are becoming more and more mainstream. "It's a bright spot," Shoup says, "It's a bright spot. "We think we spent so many years building a city around cars – now we can make it more around people."

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