Local News

Extra income prospects prompt renewed push for Mordecai's backyard cottages

Posted September 9, 2016 6:41 p.m. EDT

— An old idea is getting new energy in Raleigh's historic Mordecai neighborhood.

Dozens who live there are hoping the Raleigh City Council will once again consider allowing backyard cottages that could be hot sellers among students, people who want to live close to downtown and seniors wanting to downsize.

The cottages, also known as accessory dwelling units, are detached smaller homes between 500 and 800 square feet.

North Carolina State University professor of architecture Tom Barrie said Mordecai is an ideal neighborhood for such projects.

"The kind of lots here are generally very conducive to backyard cottages," Barrie said.

Barrie says the cottages are affordable and give people who already live in the neighborhood more flexibility. Those looking to downsize but not move away could live in cottages and rent out their larger homes, and the cottages could also be popular among young working people wanting to live close to downtown.

Becky Hayes is one of the people hoping to convince the city to allow the units.

"It will be extra income, so I'll be renting it out for someone," Hayes said.

Barrie's students researched the pros and cons of the cottages and designed models for neighbors such as Hayes.

Despite the new buzz over the idea, it's not the first time it's come up in the City of Oaks.

In 2013, the City Council voted down an ordinance that would have allowed the units across the city.

"Neighborhood character was a big concern, and it's typical of concerns you hear, not just in Raleigh, but throughout the country," said Charles Dillard, a City of Raleigh planner and urban designer.

Durham and Chapel Hill are two Triangle cities that already allow cottage-sized homes.

Raleigh officials say one of the most challenging issues about the cottages would be parking. N.C. State students in Barrie's class drew up plans to build a driveway through the back of Hayes' yard as an example of what could work.

City officials conducted a survey in Mordecai over the summer, and Dillard says about 80 percent were in favor of the cottages. Before the City Council gets involved, however, the neighborhood will have to agree on building standards and classify a potential ordinance so it only applies to the Mordecai neighborhood.

Hayes hopes that level of support displayed in the survey results will be enough to make her home away from home possible.

"A lot of Mordecai has backyards like this, it's just the perfect use of this space," she said.