Multi-generational housing comes to Franklin

Published 12:19 pm Sunday, March 1, 2020

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The multi-generational/in-law suite includes a full, eat-in kitchen. — Stephen Faleski Tidewater News


A West Coast trend in affordable housing has made its way to Franklin.

In 2018, Franklin’s City Council approved changes to the city’s zoning laws, allowing homeowners and real estate developers to construct accessory dwelling units on lots in the city’s R-O One-Family Residence District. The concept — also known as multi-generational housing or in-law suites — refers to a small, detached one- or two-bedroom unit located behind the primary residence on a single lot.

Now, the the model home for the first development of this type planned for Franklin is complete.

“These allow for multi-generational living with complete autonomy and independence,” said real estate developer Bobby Tyler, who owns about 30 vacant R-O zoned lots on Regency Lane. “We’ve designed one-bedroom units, two-bedroom homes and units that are fully handicapped-accessible.”

Accessory dwelling units, Tyler said, have already become popular in West Coast cities such as Portland, Oregon, and parts of California as a means of offsetting the cost of homeownership with rental income. In Franklin, though, the target market Tyler has in mind is families who want to have their parents close by, such as Jack Roback, who lives just down the road from the model home Tyler built at 113 Regency Lane.

Roback explained he has been looking into what he termed “assisted independent living” for his parents, who live in Chicago. Both can still drive and cook, he said, but have difficulty getting up and down stairs. The cost of assisted living in the Chicago area can go as high as $450,000 for a 1,500-square-foot one- or two-bedroom unit, plus an additional $5,000 per month in fees and dining expenses. Roback now hopes to build a one-story accessory dwelling for his parents in his own backyard, similar to the one at 113 Regency Lane, which he said would make a “huge difference” in cost.

“Kids can get off the school bus and go to grandma’s house,” Tyler added, pointing out that the concept could also work for parents with adult children who need affordable housing after college.

According to the city’s zoning ordinance, accessory dwelling structures must be located in the rear yard only and are limited to a minimum of 300 square feet and a maximum of 900 square feet. They must also be smaller than the main structure, must meet the same minimum side yard setback as the main structure, and either the ADU or the main structure must be occupied by the property owner. Only one ADU is allowed per lot.

While ADUs are now permitted “by right” on any lot zoned R-O, meaning no conditional use permit or public hearing before the city’s Council or Planning Commission is needed, Tyler — who has served on the city’s Planning Commission for the past several years — confirmed that city building permits are still required. The Planning Commission, he said, had been exploring the idea of allowing ADUs for about seven years prior to recommending a zoning change in 2018 to allow them.

The cost to build an ADU, Tyler estimated, ranges from $85,000 to $90,000, while the cost of purchasing a property similar to 113 Regency Lane, with a main house and ADU already constructed, starts at around $330,000.