If there’s one thing we can all agree on, it’s that housing is at a premium in Newton, MA. Not only are real estate prices high, there simply isn’t much inventory and there isn’t a lot of room for additional development. One simple solution that our hometown is beginning to embrace is accessory apartments, which became easier to create in April 2017 with the passage of new local zoning laws.
We used to call them ‘in-law apartments,’ but times have changed. These units, which may be within the main property or a freestanding structure, are a great way to:
- House in-laws or older relatives.
- Provide a home for ‘returning’ college students who aren’t able to afford a place of their own or are starting their careers.
- Gain a rental property for additional income.
What qualifies as an accessory apartment in Newton?
There are two types of accessory apartments: internal or detached. In either case, the owner of the property must live on premises – in either the main unit or the accessory apartment. Most accessory apartments are part of the main structure of the home and are comprised of a room or two that are separate from the rest of the residence.
The apartment must include one or more rooms for living, sleeping, kitchen and bathroom areas. Those who have enough land and meet set-back requirements can also build or renovate a separate structure on the property that qualifies as an accessory apartment. The City is particularly interested in folks who want to restore a classic carriage house. Fans of the tiny house movement may find this appealing!
For those thinking of renting the unit, keep in mind that there can legally be up to three inhabitants unrelated to the family that owns the property. Plus, the unit CANNOT be used for short term rental – so Airbnb is out of the question.
Size matters for accessory apartments. According to the zoning ordinance, an accessory apartment within the main home may range from 250 sq. ft. to 1,000 sq. ft. but can be no more than 40% of the total building size. (However, it is possible to get a special permit that allows up to 1200 sq. ft.) Detached units need a special permit and can range in size from 250-1200 sq. ft. (up to 1500 sq. ft., also by special permit) but must be less than 40% of the building size.
To find out more about Newton’s accessory apartment requirements, click here.
Why steveworks likes accessory apartments
At steveworks we are committed to sustainable building and remodeling practices. Any time we can repurpose an existing home rather than expending the resources and raw materials to build a new one is a win. Accessories, by definition, are small, which means efficient use of resources. They’re a great way to provide additional affordable housing and, in many cases, provide the perfect way to accommodate multi-generational living. This type of remodel also often allows us to use our preferred “green” building materials as well as the opportunity for the homeowners to upgrade their energy efficiency.
Our First Accessory Apartment Under the New Zoning Law
We recently started construction on an accessory apartment for a home in Newton Centre. Our clients are building the apartment for their parents – allowing them to ‘age in place’ and be closer to their grandchildren. The new apartment will convert a room above the garage into a living room, kitchenette, bedroom and bathroom.
Over the next few months we’ll be writing about various aspects of the project.
Next up: It All Starts With A Plan!