Could "Granny Flats" Be a Sandwich Generation Solution?
The 12-foot-by-24-foot MED Cottage from Salem, Virginia-based N2Care has a bedroom, sitting area, kitchenette and wheelchair-accessible bathroom. The unit also has floor-mounted webcams linked to the internet so a family member can check to see whether an elderly relative has fallen.
N2Care finished a prototype Med Cottage last month and doesn't expect full-scale production to start until next year. However, media outlets including CBS Evening News, The Washington Post and local Virginia papers are already jumping on the story, dubbing the unit "the backyard nursing home."
In interviews, the company's CEO, Rev. Ken Dupin, a local pastor, said he was inspired to create the cottage after taking part in overseas missionary trips to countries where it's the norm for generations to live together.
The pods are a prefab twist on the traditional mother-in-law unit and are designed to address an issue many people over 40 in the Sandwich Generation are facing: how to assist aging parents who can't or don't want to stay in their homes, and want an alternative to the hospital-like environment of care facilities.
Like any housing addition, these new units raise zoning questions.
In the Portland area, a decades-old urban growth boundary has caused a dramatic increase in in-fill residential development. Local zoning ordinances passed this year take this one step further, allowing what's called accessory dwelling units to be erected on the same property as a main home. According to this article from the Portland Tribune, local builders predict the change could pave the way for backyard granny flats of all kinds, including the types of units N2Care is making. Cities such as Los Angeles, Denver and Seattle have similar laws on the books.
Other areas still are working on regulations. Virginia state lawmakers recently passed legislation superseding local zoning laws to allow families to install modulars--including N2Care's units--based on a doctor's orders. Skeptics, however, worry that people will take advantage of the law and move teenagers or other relatives into vacated units.
N2Care isn't the only company betting medical modulars will go big. Seattle-based FabCab, short for "fabulous cabins," launched a line of environmentally friendly prefab and wooden kit homes earlier this year that the company says are suitable for use as in-law quarters. Another company, Larson + Shores Architects Inc., of Oakland, Ca., plans to roll out its own eco-friendly one-bedroom modular called the Inspired In-Law this fall.
Have you added a granny flat or secondary structure to your property for a parent or older relative? Tell us about your experience in the comments section below.
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