AARP Community Challenge grants have been used to educate communities about innovative ways to provide and expand housing solutions for people of all ages, abilities and incomes. As evidenced below, accessory dwelling units or ADUs — which are small houses or apartments that exist on the same property lot as a single-family residence — are a recurring theme! After viewing the photo album visit AARP.org/ADUs, or follow the link at the end, to learn more about this age-friendly housing option.
Seeing the alignment between the work of the AARP Livable Communities initiative and the City of Houston’s Livable Places Action Committee, Houston's Office of Planning and Development applied for funding to increase awareness about accessory dwelling units. The AARP Community Challenge grant funded a design competition, an ADU website, several workshops, the ADU/HOU how-to design guide (pictured) and a master set of preapproved construction documents for Double-House, the grand prize-winning design by Rice University architecture students Adam Berman and Siobhan Finlay. (The home is visible in the upper-left corner of the image below and on page 5 of the guide.)
The shortage of housing — and especially affordable housing — in California has resulted in both statewide legislation to encourage the creation of accessory dwelling units and the embrace of ADUs by many local governments. AARP grant funds helped the City of Salinas create bilingual materials about ADUs, host one workshop for contractors and builders as well as two consumer-oriented ADU workshops (one in person, with child care provided, and one virtually, with Spanish translation provided). The materials pictured below and the workshop videos are available on the city's website. The City of Salinas's ADU work was featured on ELGL's Podcast Outreach & Education on Building ADUs in Salinas, CA
The AARP Community Challenge grant enabled the MicroLife Institute to create a video documentary — called Something Small: Atlanta ADUs — about the ways accessory dwelling units can help people age in place. Funds were also used to demonstrate the viability of "micro ADUS" of 200- to 500-square-feet. (The pictures below show a "tiny home" ADU and two homes built out of cargo ship containers.) For property owners — such as one who appears in an AARP video about the institute's grant — an ADU can provide rental income from either the ADU itself or by moving into it and renting the lot's primary dwelling.
An anticipated change in the City of Lexington’s zoning laws to permit ADUs inspired the creation of a Homeowner's Guide to Accessory Dwelling Units (pictured). To build interest in ADUs and provide locally-imagined examples for the publication, the University of Kentucky School of Design hosted an ADU design competition for students and alumni. Cash prizes were given to the first, second and third place winners from each group. “The ADU manual that came out of the [AARP Community Challenge] grant — a tangible document that people can have in their hands to understand what we're talking about — was crucial to helping us convey the message we needed in order to bring about change," said Chris Woodall, manager of long-range planning for the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government. (Learn more by reading the AARP Livable Communities article "Advancing a Policy to Support Accessory Dwelling Units.")
Mount Washington Valley, New Hampshire
In 2017, the New Hampshire legislature legalized the construction of ADUs throughout the state. (See our article "New Hampshire Says Yes to ADUs.") To educate residents and encourage the creation of this age-friendly housing option, the Mount Washington Valley Housing Coalition created and distributed information (seen below) about ADUs. Said a coalition representative about the AARP-funded outreach: "What was most gratifying were the responses from everyone who heard the multiple benefits of ADUs, realized their own properties could qualify, saw the possibilities for elderly parents, learned that the old regulations no longer applied, and felt empowered to talk to their own planning board members to advocate for flexible and permissive interpretations of the law."
AARP Community Challenge grant funds helped build two ADA-compliant tiny houses at Emerald Village Eugene, a community developed by SquareOne Villages as "the first permanently affordable tiny home co-op." The 1.1 acre location features 22 tiny houses — ranging in size from 160- to 288-square-feet — each of which contains a kitchenette, bathroom, and sleeping and living areas. The community, which broke ground in 2017, was funded largely by private donations and in-kind contributions by local architects, builders and others. Future residents also helped in the work. As a result, Emerald Village was created for around $55,000 per unit, including the price of the land. The monthly cost to residents ranges from $200 to $300 and covers utilities, maintenance, operating costs and common spaces (e.g. laundry facilities, a community kitchen, storage spaces). As members of a housing cooperative, the residents own shares in the village, enabling each to receive some money if they choose to move out.
An AARP Community Challenge grant to the Council on Aging of West Florida helped build two tiny houses, which the nonprofit service agency later rented to two local women experiencing housing emergencies. (The image above shows one home's interior.) In 2022, the average monthly rental cost of a one-bedroom apartment in Pensacola was $900. Both women pay $350 a month to cover their mobile home lot fees and they pay for their electricity. One of the homes was used as a showcase model to introduce the tiny homes concept to the Pensacola community.
The nonprofit Rogue Retreat and the City of Medford were selected to receive a $2.55 million "Project Turnkey" grant from the Oregon Community Foundation to purchase and transform the 47-room Redwood Inn into non-congregate emergency shelter and transitional housing for unhoused residents of Jackson County. The AARP Community Challenge grant helped to make the property ADA-compliant. When the building reopened in 2021, most of the units were occupied by Oregonians displaced by the region's wildfires. Four apartments were reserved for individuals needing skilled nursing care or who were recovering from COVID-19. Watch the video.
Des Moines, Iowa
Wait! There's one more item about ADUs! While not an AARP Community Challenge project, the pictured gingerbread cookie constructions were created with grant funding from AARP Iowa in 2021 as part of its efforts to educate the Des Moines community about the versatility, variety and value of accessory dwelling units. Click on the image to learn how the Des Moines Public Library's Gingerbread House Contest inspired participants of all ages to "build" an ADU.
Page updated August 2023
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AARP Community Challenge: Housing Videos
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