Homeowner assistance toolbox to help expand housing options in Charlevoix County

CHARLEVOIX — Charlevoix County is exploring accessory dwelling units as a pathway to expand housing options, and will offer homeowners a step-by-step guide to consider creating such units on their property.

Housing Northa nonprofit organization that serves northern Michigan communities, created the Accessory Dwelling Unit Toolbox with funding from the Charlevoix County Community Foundation. The guide includes information on economic benefits of creating ADUs, property eligibility and zoning maps where ADUs are permitted, as well as financing, permitting and construction information.

ADUs are similar to smaller, detached homes and are sometimes referred to as cottages or granny flats. They are recognized as a viable source of additional housing stock because they can support a wide range of housing needs, such as for older adults seeking smaller living options, seniors on fixed incomes, lower and middle-income households and members of the local workforce.

As well, ADUs in most cases are cheaper to develop than other forms of new housing units because they are built on land that has no additional acquisition costs. Neighborhoods in the cities of Charlevoix, Boyne City and East Jordan allow ADUs.

“Accessory dwelling units are among many potential solutions needed in Charlevoix County,” Housing North Executive Director Yarrow Brown said in a statement. “Given their smaller size and lack of additional land costs, ADUs offer a more affordable housing option in neighborhoods where housing costs are out of reach for many people.”

Recent studies show more than 15,600 housing units are needed to meet existing housing demands in northwest Michigan. A 2019 Northwest Michigan Target Market Analysis studied the demand for housing through 2025. Based on the potential for demand from both current and new residents, it was found that Charlevoix County could support 1,192 additional housing units through 2025. LandUseUSA conducted the analysis on behalf of Housing North and Networks Northwest.

“The housing needs in Charlevoix County are so challenging,” Charlevoix County Community Foundation President Chip Hansen said in a statement. “Any effort we can support, no matter how large or small, can end up making a difference, and that’s what made the ADU program attractive to us — a small grant, with big potential.”

ADUs involve a variety of housing types, including apartments within a home, standalone structures on the same lot as existing homes, or new construction above an existing garage.

“The demand for this housing is strong and creates stability for owners of ADUs,” Brown said. “ADUs are a housing solution that is attainable for many in the local workforce at several income levels, and in neighborhoods that are near employment, shopping and important services.”

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