Legalize it.

Londoners are in a tizzy over “sheds with beds,” informal backyard housing units. Over here stateside, the planning term is “accessory dwelling unit.” They’re common in old Houston neighborhoods, and West Coast cities have been slowly peeling back regulations against their construction.

More than a few of the houses in Prospect New Town, a DPZ site plan out in the far reaches of Denver exurbia, come with the ADUs pre-installed. But while many US jurisdictions move from tolerance to outright promotion of the backyard flat, London-born writer and journalist Feargus O’Sullivan thinks this is all moot because they “have cropped up in already high density areas, whose row houses have tiny yards.”

Well that changes everything.

But there is a legitimate issue here. If I, as a hypothetical landlord, have to face the risk that my site improvements will be “raided” and forcibly removed, I’m going to tend to underinvest in said improvements since any increase in rent must be weighed against the potential loss incurred from their removal. On the other hand, if I can legally build a shed with a bed, well, I might just install a full bath with a jacuzzi tub. Someone will pay a slight rent premium for that.

All the issues with London’s ADUs can be resolved with full legalization. So, legalize it.

One thought on “Legalize it.”

  1. An absolutely classic case of bad policy leading to more bad policy to address the outcomes of the initial bad policy, and so on…

    1 – create a low-income housing problem through restrictive zoning

    2 – herd low-income people into PJs (or council flats as they would have it)

    3 – cut funding for said PJs, then punish those who respond to the market and try to provide at least some form of low-income housing

    Awesome. Because apparently, it’s an unbearable human tragedy when people live in tiny apartments with minimal amenities, but when police drive the homeless to sleep on the street in skid row, that’s all well and good.

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