What are the best options for the millions of single-family homes that may be left behind by Baby Boomers as they age, many of which are in suburban or exurban communities? Is it realistic to retrofit homes and neighborhoods to accommodate changing demand?
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Let me take a somewhat different tack from the assumption that the aging Baby Boomers have to leave their homes as quickly as the proposition suggests. Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs), which are small units retrofitted into existing homes and, sometimes, constructed as independent units, can enable the aging boomers to remain in their homes longer. ADUs can provide opportunities to support in-house caregivers with live-in accommodations. They can also provide opportunities for additional affordable homes.
Neighborhood concerns about parking, intrusiveness, and additional residents can be easily ameliorated by good planning, permitting and regulatory practices at the local level. These units can also provide additional income for revenue challenged seniors. Of course, inevitably, the seniors will move on. Then, these ADUs will provide added value for subsequent owners. True, the support and approval of ADUs is primarily a local challenge and responsibility. But, at the federal level, incentives, analysis and promotion of best practices, mitigation of federal regulatory obstacles and financing would help to significantly encourage positive consideration of this initiative at the local level. For those who are looking for good examples of such units, just take a stroll down any street in Washington, D.C.’s Capitol Hill neighborhood. Personally, as an “aging boomer,” I look forward to being able to adding an ADU to my home.
Conrad Egan is Senior Advisor for the Affordable Housing Institute.
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