Greensboro is not unique in having a housing shortage, and in particular a shortage of affordable housing.

North Carolina is one of the fastest growing states in the country and the cities in the state are experiencing housing shortages.

The Greensboro City Council talks a lot about the affordable housing shortage and has been throwing money at the problem.  The overall housing shortage doesn’t get nearly as much attention, even though the two are connected.  Because of the laws of supply and demand, the overall housing shortage raises the cost of housing, which results in less housing being in the affordable category.

Unlike the Greensboro City Council, the Raleigh City Council is taking steps to relieve the housing shortage without spending a dime.

One action recently taken by the Raleigh City Council is designed to provide more housing at no additional cost to the city.

In Greensboro, “granny flats” are discouraged if not all but illegal.  What is commonly called a granny flat is officially an “accessory dwelling unit” on an existing residential lot.  In Greensboro, a homeowner can build a garage apartment or a pool house (if they have a pool), but an accessory dwelling unit that is not a garage apartment or a pool house is not a permitted use and there are regulations in place to make even garage apartments and pool houses less desirable as accessory dwelling units.  For example, Greensboro requires the electricity for those units to come from the main house.

Raleigh has taken a different approach and the zoning regulations not only encourage granny flats, but Raleigh has gone so far as to provide homeowners with free designs for building affordable accessory dwelling units.

The accessory dwelling units are called granny flats because they are often originally built for parents or grandparents.  However, once they are no longer needed for the original occupants, they can and often do become rental units.  Of course, they can also be built as rental units, but people still call them granny flats.

Those who support this type of housing note that they accomplish many of the goals that the Greensboro City Council claims to have for the housing supply in Greensboro, such as more income and age diversity in neighborhoods as well as simply providing more housing options.

(Next: Another Raleigh initiative Greensboro should copy.)