The following (in blue) was posted as a comment to my Whatcom Independent guest column of January 17th (click here to read the column) by an individual named Robert. My comments are inserted between parts of his text.
"I think too much area is devoted to single family only zoning. As demographics change to reflect more single people and other non family realities, some of the zoning should change. Mixed use zones can be healthy where high end home owners and lower end renters share the neighborhood. One example is in
There is an enormous difference between a high end apartment building co-existing adjacent to a HUD project and a single family homeowner finding adjacent homes turned into illegal rooming houses. I agree that the city should be cognizant of changing demographics especially since it has failed miserably over the past several decades to encourage affordable housing for thousands of students and low-income workers."Rather than having illegal rooming houses in single family zones, more zones need to allow for greater density. Then some of the big houses can be divided up into separate studio apartments, rather than one big noisy household of renters."
I agree that more zones need to be set aside for greater density; however, the creation of greater density by ignoring the zoning codes and thereby creating illegal rooming houses is not the answer. There may be some larger homes which are suitable for conversion to small apartments; however, this kind of infill must be carefully controlled. I have too many reports already about single family homes being modified on the inside to create more bedrooms so that the owner can cram more renters into the same space so that rent increases are absorbed by the additional tenants. I am also beginning to hear stories of conditional use permits being employed to circumvent the rules on single family zoning."Also it is good to have quiet one person or one couple studio apartments in single family homes where the family can live upstairs while 1 renter can live in what is often called a "mother in law" apartment."
I have spoken before on ADUs (accessory dwelling units). ADUs are a seemingly benign answer to provide additional, affordable housing for a single person or a couple. However, there is a tendency to cede one’s good sense to the dollar as has happened in my neighborhood. That ADU, the owner used to rent, becomes attractive as a place for the owner to live as he or she downsizes in later life while the “main house” turns into a money making source where one can earn, let’s say, $1800 a month versus $500 for that ADU. So now, instead of having one or two renters with an additional vehicle, you have 6 renters, all with cars, plus the car(s) of the owner(s). Water and sewer use rise in the rental but the owner pays no more since single family homes are charged a flat rate. Traffic increases and parking becomes an issue. Do not underestimate the tug of monetary gain. Ergo: ADU = bad idea.
"One good way to create more affordable housing is to have more units and smaller units. There shouldn't be the situation where only big family style houses are available so it takes 8 people pooling their money to live there. If the home is smaller, the household can be smaller and presumably quieter."
We should never have 8 people pooling their money to rent a single family home because that creates an illegal rooming house. This is an insidious means to allow uncontrolled infill and it does nothing to prevent the unlicensed landlord from neglecting his property and perhaps putting the health and welfare of the renters in jeopardy. Smaller homes may be an answer but I would not underestimate the ability of some homeowners to crowd as many renters as possible in even the smallest of houses.