Residential Zoning

How Zoning Rules Can Foment Increased Urban Density: The In-Law Suite

As urban infill becomes the latest wave of “smart” development, and as a boom generation of parents and grandparents transition to an unenviable life stage of less autonomy, counties and municipalities continue to wrangle with ways of dealing with these–and PLENTY of other–zoning bugaboos.

In Raleigh, North Carolina, where the Land Use Litigator lives and works, the progessive City is working its way through the possibility of permitting standalone cottages on single-family residential parcels.  Dubbed by one publication as “granny flats”, because “many families build them for older relatives”, these one-bedroom “homes” would include plumbing, electricity, perhaps gas.

As with anything new, there are conflicting viewpoints.  Opinions range from claims that permitting these in Raleigh will “lead to urban blight” and return the City to “the middle class flight of the 1970s”, to claims that progressive, creative cities like Seattle and Portland effectively use these backyard cottages to “increase downtown density and affordable housing”.     

Oh yeah, one more thing: apparently (though we have not verified), “attached dwelling units, often connected by no more than a breezeway, are allowed in Raleigh and also don’t require owner occupancy.”  So, the lesson, as always, is that a good lawyer can still get your mother-in-law to your backyard.

Mind if I move in?

Mike Thelen practices in Womble, Carlyle’s Real Estate Litigation practice group. He regularly represents a wide variety of clients, from local governments to businesses, in land use and land development matters in both state and federal venues throughout North Carolina.

Categories: Residential Zoning

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