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Granny Pods Are Becoming a Popular Housing Alternative

Small dwellings can provide an affordable home in a family’s backyard

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Granny pods or micro-houses are designed for accessibility but are compact enough to fit in a backyard.
Courtesy of Inspired Independence

For older adults who are relocating to be closer to relatives but don’t want to live under the same roof, there’s an increasingly popular alternative: so-called "granny pods," or micro-houses, that are designed for accessibility but are compact enough to fit in a backyard.

CNBC recently reported on a 67-year-old retiree who wanted to move to Northern California to be closer to her family but was daunted by the high housing costs. Jane Baldwin’s answer was to build a 400-square-foot cottage in their backyard. The house, designed by Oakland-based Inspired Independence, includes a living room, bedroom and galley kitchen. It has a walk-in shower and doorways and hallways wide enough to accommodate a wheelchair — if one is needed.

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A growing number of companies produce modular dwellings that are specially designed for older people. Prices for the small houses vary — depending on the size and features — from less than $50,000 to nearly $250,000.

For older people considering the small dwelling as a retirement home, personal finance website Kiplinger.com recommends they find a design that includes certain essential features — such as a bedroom on the main floor, full bath with a raised toilet, a walk-in shower, grab bars and slip-resistant flooring. It may also be important to have storage space — such as drawers beneath beds and sofas — that can be accessed without using a ladder. The house also should be built low to the ground so there is no need for steps.

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