Unlocking Home_Alan Durning_Sightline Institute_July 2013

Tiny backyard cottages, micro-apartments, the revival of boarding houses and in-law dwellings—Cascadia is on the bleeding edge of these emerging trends, which reintroduce housing forms of a century ago.

Today, Sightline is releasing a short book on the gigantic opportunities cities have to make urban living quarters greener, cheaper, and more abundant by eliminating a few municipal rules.

Hidden in city regulations are a set of simple but powerful barriers to affordable housing for all. These rules criminalize history’s answers to affordable dwellings: the boarding or rooming house, the roommate, the in-law apartment and the backyard cottage. In effect, cities have banned what used to be the bottom end of the private housing market.

  • Unlocking Home: Three Keys to Affordable Community details how to revive inexpensive housing in walkable neighborhoods—at no cost to the public—by striking a few lines of municipal law.

    The three keys are re-legalizing rooming and boarding houses, uncapping the number of roommates who may share a dwelling, and welcoming accessory dwellings such as granny flats and garden cottages.

    Opening up this housing would:

    • create new income opportunities for property owners
    • alleviate the outward pressure of sprawl into farmland and forests
    • increase residential concentration organically, without big changes to architectural character
    • yield compact communities that support walking, transit, neighborhood businesses and low-carbon living

    Most important, these tactics would generate thousands and thousands of units of inexpensive housing in metropolitan areas, unlocking homes for the many people who need them.

    Unlocking Home is a Sightline e-book. We’re so eager to see it advance change, including in your community, we’re practically giving it away. We’re only charging $3.95 for it. In fact, for the next month, we will give it to you free, if you’ll help us spread the word. Details are here.