Banning Grannies: Minn. Cities Weigh Impact of Granny Pods

Granny pods have been popping up all over the country to help seniors age in place near their caregivers or loved ones. These small, accessory dwellings have risen as a possible housing solution for older Americans as multigenerational households become more commonplace. But some municipalities in one state are saying “no” to granny pods, leaving residents forced to explore other options. 

One in five Americans live in households with two or more adult generations, according to The Center on Aging & Working at Boston College. In the areas where zoning allows for them, granny pods have become a viable configuration for housing the aging population on the same property as their adult children or grandchildren. Alternative to senior housing community settings, families can stay living together while its members can maintain some independence.

Starting in September, granny pods will be allowed throughout Minnesota under certain requirements, except in cities that choose to ban them, according to a recent article by Minneapolis Public Radio (MPR). Many cities are opting out of the allowance, citing unknowns around these small, singular dwellings. 

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Some of the restrictions are having a harsh impact on local granny pod businesses, MPR reports. Cities such as St. Cloud, Minneapolis, St. Paul and a number of metro-area suburbs have banned granny pods or are likely to.

The demand for senior housing in Minnesota that is affordable is expected to increase by more than 50% over the next five years, according to a 2014 study by the Minnesota Housing Partnership. And chances of those needs being met are unlikely.

NextDoor Housing of Big Lake, Minn., builds granny pods and is confident that even with recent bans, there are still a number of opportunities in rural Minnesota, John Louiselle, co-founder of NextDoor Housing, tells MPR. Other companies around the country that have entered the market with similar products include MedCottage, FabCab and the Home Store.

NextDoor Housing’s granny pods are designed to meet or exceed the construction standards for recreational vehicles and also withstand the harsh winters in Minnesota, Louiselle explains in the article. His company partnered with local home manufacturer, Homark Homes of Red Lake Falls, to build the pods and mount them on steel trailers that can be hauled by pickup truck. NextDoor Housing’s units usually sell for around $45,000. 

For just one year in an assisted living facility in Minnesota, it will cost about $40,000. And for nursing home care, the average is about $62,000, according to a 2012 MetLife Market Survey on long-term care costs. 

This past spring, Minnesota passed a set of laws for granny pods. The law states that the portable homes cannot exceed 300 square feet and must be on property where a caregiver or relative lives. Also, a medical professional must vouch that the person occupying the unit needs help with two or more daily activities.

Minnesota residents as well as state legislatures are having mixed feelings about the granny pod revolution. Some communities are backing up their bans by saying they want more time to study this new type of housing and how to deal with it. 

“We do see it fitting into the mix of housing options for older adults,” Kari Benson, Minnesota Board on Aging executive says in the article. “As we’re looking towards an aging population with the aging of the baby boomers, we need all of the options at least considered on the table.”

Read the full article and listen to the audio story at MPR News.

Written by Alana Stramowski

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