Startup Targets Growing “Small House” Market for Senior Living

Photo credit: New Avenue Homes

From “granny pods” to moveable elder cottages, many solutions are coming to market to meet the growing need for an alternative to traditional long term care. Enter New Avenue Homes, a California-based company that helps homeowners capitalize on the concept of “small house” design.

The company connects homeowners with architects and builders to create customized solutions for people to add accessory dwellings, or simply remodel their existing homes to accommodate aging parents or other multi-generational living situations. Designers work to utilize the small homes—often not more than 800 square feet in size.

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By New Avenue’s estimates, the alternative solution can save aging homeowners as much as $1 million over the course of 10 years.

“Communities want it, homeowners want it and neighbors don’t oppose it,” says New Avenue Founder Kevin Casey. “It’s fairly unique and it’s shocking how welcoming homeowners, cities and lawmakers have been to this concept.”

New Avenue has been in business for several years, but has just recently rolled out an online platform that allows all parties to collaborate on the design of an accessory dwelling that sits on an existing property allowing for aging parents to remain close to family, but still in their own homes.

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“Homeowners start a project and invite an architect and contractor in,” Casey explains. “It’s the only transparent system where all three groups share all of their communications. It’s a revolutionary shift in how remodels are done.”

The company counts 1,500 projects that are currently online, with 80 projects currently in the architecture or design phase and a 300% increase in both new customers and project activities from the fourth quarter of 2013 to the first quarter of 2014—in part resulting from the rollout of its new platform.

According to its research, roughly 30% of homeowners are interested in adding an accessory dwelling, including baby boomers who are looking for options for their aging parents. Currently, that group comprises about a quarter of New Avenue’s work, with the company seeing success in making inroads for accessory dwellings where permitting previously hasn’t allowed for them. Casey says he has received calls from state senators, mayors, city officials and national housing policy think tanks interested in providing solutions to affordable housing options.

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“It’s the only form of housing that fits with the majority of homes in the country,” he says. “It truly is welcomed by the community.”

New Avenue offers a series of floor plans as starting points, with a typical accessory dwelling being about 700 square feet with one bedroom, one bathroom and a living area. The cost varies depending on the features the homeowner chooses, but New Avenue estimates families can save more than $60,000 per year when considering the cost of an alternative option, plus property tax, utilities and other expenses.

In addition to meeting the preferences of older homeowners, Casey says the concept is lasting due to the need.

“The concept of how you use your home for the second half of your life is not a singular concept,” he says. “There are five to 10 primary functions your home is going to serve.”

Written by Elizabeth Ecker

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