Local News

Raleigh considers plan for homes away from home

Posted February 1, 2013

— Raleigh leaders are considering a change to local zoning rules that could add places to live to existing property parcels.

Right now, homeowners seeking more space can request an expansion permit, but any addition must be connected to the existing home. Under the proposal, property owners could add a detached house, sometimes called a "granny flat" or "backyard cottage," which would be free-standing and include living area, bathroom, kitchen and a locked entrance.

"This is an innovative approach for the city to grow, and our city needs to be looking at ways that we can innovate," said Councilman Bonner Gaylord.

Josh Whiton bought his home in Oakwood with a backyard cottage in mind. Whiton, who is single, planned to rent out the bigger house while living on the property in a cottage. "I had no idea that they were outlawed," he said.

Backyard cottages City support split on backyard cottage plan

Raleigh's City Council is scheduled to discuss a draft plan at its meeting next Tuesday, but Whiton is worried it won't go far enough. The draft establishes the minimum size lot that can accommodate a second structure (4,000 square feet), a maximum size for any such cottage (800 square feet) and establishes set-backs from surrounding streets and properties.

For Whiton, the proposal would require him to build right in the middle of his back yard.  

"It's becoming so restrictive that it's not going to be feasible," he said. "If anything passes, it's not feasible for anybody to actually implement, and it will be a lot of work for nothing."

Raleigh Planning Director Mitchell Silver said sentiment toward the plan has been evenly split. "There are those who certainly want it and believe it will be a nice option for people who want to rent," he said.

Opponents worry that more living spaces mean more renters in the city and more absentee landlords. Waverly Smith, a north Raleigh resident, said, "We already have that now with the rental units we have." Smith's council representative, Randy Stagner, said his constituents have been predominantly opposed to the idea.

The council could decide to allow Oakwood to be a pilot before opening the cottage option to the city at large.


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  • Shells Feb 4, 2013

    It never occurred to me that the city would not let me build on my own land! I am looking to buy a house on an 1.5 acres with the intent of building a small 1 bedroom house on the property for my mom when she can no longer maintain her own dwelling. That should be completely in my rights as a homeowner with no HOA!

  • wayneboyd Feb 4, 2013

    Solution..Take away some employee vehicles, lay off some of the city employees, cut out vacation pay. Do what we in the private sector are havinng to do, DO WITHOUT!

  • miseem Feb 4, 2013

    4,000 square feet is less than 1/10 of an acre, or a lot about 63 feet square. I don't see how you can have a main dwelling and an 800 square foot secondary dwelling on that size lot. I foresee a lot of shacks going up in areas that already have too many absentee landlords, not owner occupied property with an in-law or grannie flat.

  • MCochran Feb 1, 2013

    This will be good for the NC economy! About time!

  • exposure102 Feb 1, 2013

    This is the last thing we need - we already have enough slumlords in Raleigh - now they'll be adding projects in their back yards.

  • readme Feb 1, 2013

    Pass it.

  • Terkel Feb 1, 2013

    Didn't Whiton's realtor tell him he should check with Zoning before counting on building another structure? Imagine that.

  • atellisx Feb 1, 2013

    Came across these roadblocks while exploring building low cost efficiency houses in Wake County.

    There's a lot of potential in this. Get rid of the restrictive ordinances and the innovation will rush in like a tidal wave.