Sunday 23 April 2017 News Updated at 03:04 PM IST
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Granny Units are here - Deccan Herald
Granny Units are here
Mala Ashok, April 14, 2017, Deccan Herald News Service
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India has long prided itself on its practice of looking after its senior citizens well. Until recently, resorts and residences for seniors were practically unknown, as parents would move in with their children. All this is now changing, since both parents and their grown children value their privacy. Enter Granny Units, also known as in-law suites. There are various types of homes within the confines of main homes. Of course, we are talking here of single family homes, not apartments.

Indians often feel that seniors in the West are abandoned by their families. But that is not true. The children are affectionate and if the seniors opt to live in seniors' homes, they make all the arrangements and visit often.

Now, Palo Alto (in the Bay area of California, USA) council members hope some zoning changes they approved will encourage construction of smaller housing units on single-family lots. Those in support of relaxing the city's rules say it will now be easier to build accessory dwellings, or "Granny Units," to bring in some extra income or house ageing family members, recent college graduates, caregivers or couples who want to live close to in-laws.

Property owners can build one accessory dwelling unit, or junior accessory dwelling unit, ranging from 450 to 900 square feet, either attached or detached. The council is looking for ways to increase affordable housing and offer a wider variety of housing because of the city's high housing costs and rise in ageing population.

Some residents, however, are concerned that housing density will add to parking problems and change the character of single-family neighbourhoods. Others question whether the new units will be used as short-term rentals rather than much-needed housing for those who want to live in Palo Alto. In response to the latter concern, the city does not allow such units to be rented for periods less than 30 days.

Metros in India are fast becoming apartment havens with few or no bungalows. Allowing such "Granny Units," which could be rented out, may make bungalows affordable.

The Palo Alto (which is home to several Californians of Indian origin) council voted in the following:

Elimination of lot-sized requirements so accessory units can be built anywhere. Previously, lots could have accessory dwelling units only if they were 35% larger than the minimum lot size in a particular zoning area.

Conversion of existing structures, such as a garage to accessory dwelling units.
Conversion of an existing bedroom to a unit no more than 500 square feet with a kitchenette. (This would work in flats too.)

The council got rid of requirements - in some instances to comply with new state law - that dictated the orientation of the unit's door, the height of the unit at a maximum of 17 feet and the parking availability to be two spots.

The council also asked city staff to devise incentives for residents to build such units, especially if the units are for low-to-moderate income residents, seniors, public employees and people with disabilities.

We may have led the way in caring for seniors, but now, it may be time to take a look at the West to find new ways of accommodating our elders.

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