One of Provo’s greatest advantages is that many of its single family homes are not actually single family homes; instead, they’re duplexes due to accessory apartments in basements, attics, yards and garages. Though for some reason some people dislike accessory apartments (I don’t understand that sentiment), they are in fact a tremendous asset for the city.
This article from The Miami Herald highlights some of the advantages of accessory apartments and notes their growing popularity. The article states that demand for homes with “multigenerational” units is growing and gives people added flexibility. Big families can still use the space all for themselves, or they can house relatives, make a little extra money, etc. with the separate units.
In other words, accessory apartments make homes more adaptable and versatile. For example, it’s easy to imagine a young couple moving into a home with an apartment and renting it out initially, then taking over the space as the family expands. When the kids grow up and the couple finally retires, they can rent it out again for supplemental income. The article illustrates this idea:
Some home buyers just like the flexibility of a home within a home. Jenny Diaz and her husband, Rolando, are planning to move next week from Hialeah to their new home in The Vineyards with their four kids ages 13, 9, 7 and 5.
“It’s perfect for us. You have options of what you are able to do with the space,” said Jenny Diaz, who works in quality assurance at a doctor’s office.
Her family picked The Shiraz, which includes a 600-square-foot suite adjacent to the main home, a three-bedroom, 2 1/2-bath-room, two-story structure.
“It’s a very good way of being with the family,” she added. “I’m going to use the whole house.”
In my own case, an accessory apartment actually made homeownership possible. Having an accessory apartment also has other benefits: it means someone is usually home so break-ins are less likely, it increases eyes on the street, it capitalizes on our grotesquely overbuilt parking infrastructure, etc.
If I had my way, we’d never build another single family home in America without including an accessory apartment. Because homes with accessory apartments can usually still be used as single family homes, buying or building a space without the potential for an apartment is basically throwing away money.
But perhaps the best reason to add accessory apartments is to increase density. As I’ve written previously, Provo badly needs to increase its density even as some good intentions send the city careening in the wrong direction.
Accessory apartments are one way to increase density without fundamentally changing the look and feel of a neighborhood. It’s a soft solution. Homes still look every bit as “homey” and charming, they’re just vastly more efficient and flexible. As a result, it’s my hope that homes with accessory apartments proliferate in Provo.