Editorials

Raleigh should OK ‘Granny flats’

A visit to a backyard cottage in Raleigh

Simon Atkinson talks about the cottage behind his home in Raleigh. Atkinson and his wife Robin Abrams believe there is a place for the small residences in Raleigh neighborhoods.
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Simon Atkinson talks about the cottage behind his home in Raleigh. Atkinson and his wife Robin Abrams believe there is a place for the small residences in Raleigh neighborhoods.

With regard to a good proposal to allow “granny flats” to boost affordable housing in established neighborhoods, some members of the Raleigh City Council are acting as if they’re kids at a swimming pool afraid to go off the high dive. Only they aren’t being asked to go off the high dive, just to stick a toe in the shallow end.

Council member Mary-Ann Baldwin, a popular at-large member with strong pro-neighborhood bona fides, has been pushing the idea of allowing people to build additional dwelling units, sometimes called “granny flats” in reference to one potential use of providing homes for relatives, for a long time. It is a worthy idea, but council members recently put off allowing discussion of the issue – keeping it instead in a committee – and thus Baldwin will finish her last term on the council without any action on something she’s been focused on for two years.

This is a shame. Such dwellings could provide a modest amount of additional, “affordable” housing for which there is a crying need in the city. Concerns about traffic are valid but shouldn’t paralyze discussion or action, for that matter. The council could establish reasonable limits on size and residency and thus protect neighborhoods from being overrun with accessory housing. And a pilot program could be developed if that were deemed necessary.

Baldwin and Bonner Gaylord, another incumbent leaving the council, both supported expediting this discussion and were joined by incumbent returning Mayor Nancy McFarlane. It’s sad that delay has won the day.

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