Recently we have received a few calls for estimates on building companion units. This is typically a small two or three room “apartment” or cottage built to accommodate the homeowners’ aging parent—hence the more common name “granny flat”. These units are sometimes built above a garage or in the backyard, although we’ve also seen them built as a room addition on the main house. Since it seems like more Bay Park and Clairemont residents are choosing multigenerational living situations, I thought I’d share some information about companion units.
The City’s Municipal Code 141.0302 defines a companion unit as “a single dwelling unit that is an accessory use for a single dwelling unit on a residential lot that provides complete living facilities independent of the primary dwelling unit.” In plain English, it’s a space that has everything needed to live separate from the main house. Usually this consists of a living/sleeping area, bathroom and kitchen facilities with a separate entrance.
The code also contains some very specific regulations governing the construction of these units. For example, the gross floor area of the unit may not exceed 700 square feet, and there are height restrictions as well. You’ll also need to have at least one off-street parking space for the unit, in addition to what you have for the main house.
There are occupancy restrictions as well. There can be no more that 2 people residing in such a unit, and at least one must be related to the owner, or a senior citizen or a person with a disability. In addition, the property owner must at all times be living in either the primary dwelling or the companion unit. These regulations are designed to keep a property owner on a residential lot from turning their property into an apartment building without the proper zoning.
What if you only want to create some separate space within your home for a parent or your adult son or daughter who is moving back in? You’ll find that as long as you aren’t creating an extra kitchen, you can easily build a room addition that includes a bedroom, sitting room, and bathroom without the City considering it a companion unit. Even adding a separate entrance to the outside shouldn’t be a problem as long as it doesn’t create a second front entrance or otherwise alter the “single dwelling unit appearance of the premises”.
This is just an overview of this topic, and by no means does this include all the things to consider if you are thinking about a “granny flat”. If you have decided to go ahead, then by all means give us a call at K-CO for a free estimate on the cost of adding to or remodeling your home. We look forward to hearing from you!