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The ProHousing Project

Scenario One
Accessory Dwellings



Many communities have zoning regulations which permit the use of an accessory dwelling, sometimes referred to as a "mother-in-law house" This is so called because these dwellings usually have the provision that they cannot be rented out, but can be occupied by a mother-in-law, relative or guest as opposed to a person who pays rent in return for living there. If one lives in an area that has such a zoning code, and there is no clause preventing the rental of the dwelling, than a wonderful opportunity exists by which a home owner can help alleviate the housing crisis and at the same time compensate himself for the contribution he makes.

This allows free enterprise to solve the problem rather than having the government spend tax dollars to come up with solutions like homeless shelters and housing projects, which have been proven to be a good deal less than effective. Shelters are perceived as demeaning and physically unsafe by the homeless. Housing projects concentrate large numbers of low-income people in geographical areas, building new ghettos and promoting a culture of hopelessness. And as inadequate as either of these solutions are, they are available to only a fraction of the population they are intended to serve.

Currently the federal, state and county governments collect money through income and property taxes, and filter that money through bureaucratic channels into housing programs. If instead, tax incentives were provided to home owners who rented accessory houses, the problem could be addressed more directly, and with more involvement of the private sector.

With accessory dwellings, the owner of the principal structure can have control of the environment of the secondary unit as far as regards the size, aesthetic appeal and cost. This also has the advantage of dispersing small single units among the general population rather than creating ghettos of low -cost homes. A little bit of added income for the owner also is an incentive to this program. Figures 1,2 and 3 are some examples of small homes that are designed for this purpose, including an absolute minimum "micro-house" with an area of 120 square feet, one slightly larger at 224 square feet and a small cottage of 320 square feet, which is actually equivalent to a detached studio apartment.


Fig. 1 - 10 x 12 Micro House (104 KB)




Fig. 2 - 14 x 16 Mini House (109 KB)




Fig. 3 - 16 x 20 Cottage (105 KB)



Of course, this plan calls for a zoning code that permits such a program. Where one does not exist, it would be worth while to try to change or amend existing zoning. Building codes may also have to be looked at and amended. Although every effort has been made to design these enclosed drawings to conform to present codes, minimum sizes of rooms or units as presently dictated often actually prohibit small homes.

Sleeping lofts, which are a great space saving idea, usually require full-sized stairways rather than a ladder, which makes them economically impossible. Also, many building departments simply don't allow them, period. Although the house designs shown here do not included sleeping lofts, we strongly recommend changing the building codes to permit them.

All of these designs have large attics which are intended for storage, to keep the limited living space of a micro-dwelling free of things that are not used on a day-to-day basis.


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ProHousing - Copyright 1991, 1999 by Ron Konzak
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