This week, Seattle’s City Council voted to revive a pre-1950s fashion—they eased the restrictions on property zoning in southeast Seattle, allowing residents to rent out backyard and garage apartments, often known as “granny flats.” Before urban families began to migrate to the suburbs, urban dwellings commonly featured an accessory apartment which was often occupied by an elderly relative, hence the name.

As we’ve mentionedbefore, there are considerable benefits to granting property owners more choice on how they use their lots. The creation of more residential space in dense areas enriches our communities and reduces strains on the environment. Complete, compact neighborhoods can bring economic stability to local merchants, and reduce the amount of driving needed—lowering traffic-related deaths, commute headaches, and toxic emissions into the air.

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  • While some residents fear that the new zoning definitions will lead to too many cars and people, granny flats can have healthy advantages for communities. They give low-income renters like students and the elderly a more affordable living option, allowing them to remain in their neighborhoods. This is especially helpful to aging residents in staying active and maintaining social connections. And with housing costscontinuing to climb, the extra income from renting out these spaces can be a big help for homeowners with mortgage payments. Plus, who wouldn’t love some more time with Grandma?