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Small Solutions in Affordable Housing

June 29, 2021 2:13 PM | TLC Monadnock (Administrator)

Photo by Aysegul Yahsi on Unsplash 

Affordable housing solutions come in all shapes and sizes.  Let’s focus on some small solutions: Home Sharing, Accessory Dwelling Units, and Tiny Houses.

Home Sharing

Home Sharing provides one quick way to boost affordable housing options. Instead of living alone, you can share your home with housemates.  But how do you find the right housemate for you?  Enter Sharing Housing, Inc., a nonprofit based in East Dummerston, VT, on a mission to elevate this affordable housing solution.

“Even before the pandemic, many people struggled with housing costs and social isolation,” said Annamarie Pluhar of Sharing Housing. “Shared housing is a viable solution many of us overlook when considering where and how to live, despite multiple advantages -- social, emotional, and financial.”

Last July, ninety community members supported Sharing Housing’s crowdfunding campaign on The Local Crowd Monadnock.  Sharing Housing raised over $10K to create a self-paced online course called Discovering Shared Housing, to help individuals find and keep good housemates.  Start with their free online course, 5 Key Benefits of Shared Housing.

Accessory Dwelling Units

An Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) includes an apartment over a garage, a tiny house in your backyard, or any small dwelling on the same land as your single-family house.

“As the ‘missing middle housing’ concept is popularized among planners and designers, ADUs are poised to present the most viable stepping-stone solution for cities that are experiencing a housing crisis,” said Kol Peterson, author of Backdoor Revolution - The Definitive Guide to ADU Development.

In 2017, New Hampshire laws changed to make it easier for homeowners to build ADUs, to boost the state’s affordable housing supply without developing more land. The City of Keene allows property owners to build attached ADUs in all residential districts and detached ADUs are allowed in the rural and agricultural districts without a conditional use permit.  There are rules around size restrictions, parking needs, and other requirements.

“Not every state has made widespread access to ADUs official,” said Jess Kelley of Solid Roots Construction in Manchester.  “It is an incredible step forward for New Hampshire, but, as we realized in the course of working with our customers who wanted to build one, many people still aren’t aware that they even have the option.”

Chris Lee of the company Backyard ADUs based in Brunswick, ME, guides people through the process of building an ADU, from design to permitting to move-in day.  You can purchase a feasibility study of your land and local zoning rules from them for $450.

“When we started working on ADUs, we thought the mission was to help homeowners build rental units in their backyards,” shared Chris. “But, we quickly realized there was simply a huge gap in available housing -- there are not enough quality small [not tiny] homes to go around and most builders don’t want to build them.”

Tiny Houses

Like the name states, Tiny Houses are small homes usually under 600 square feet built on wheels or foundations.  A Tiny House is considered a ADU if it’s on the same land as a single-family house but can also be located in a standalone property or clustered to form a neighborhood.  In Keene, a tiny house is not permitted in most zoning districts since an ADU must be attached to the primary residence.

State and local regulations can present challenges to those who want to go tiny. Earlier this year, state representatives introduced House Bill 588, requiring that municipalities allow Tiny Houses anywhere any single-family homes are permitted.  The bill, however, did not pass.

“We’ve had many people who really want to buy them but couldn’t find a place they were allowed,” said Anne Mellin, co-owner of Tiny Living Spaces. “Unless you own property that you already have a house on and put the tiny home in as a second dwelling, you can’t do it.”

Learn more about Affordable Housing legislation

Small Change

How do we bring more of these small solutions to our region?  While TLC Monadnock offers rewards-based crowdfunding, a platform called Small Change provides real estate investment crowdfunding.

Small Change allows everyday people to invest in real estate projects that “change cities and neighborhoods for the better.” They select projects that boost walkability and bike-ability, offer better access to healthy food and green spaces, and elevate other attributes that increase the quality of life for all.

I’d love to see a developer launch a Small Change campaign in our region. Please learn more and spread the word about Small Change.  

Let’s elevate these small solutions together!  We’re in the very early stages of organizing an event to amplify these small solutions in our region.  Stay tuned here or contact me at jen@thelocalcrowd.com.

The Local Crowd Monadnock - Mailing Address: 63 Emerald St. #114, Keene, NH 03431

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