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Due to severe shortages of affordable housing, more Americans than ever are bedding down inside their vehicles.  Los Angeles County, California is home to the country’s greatest number of unsheltered homeless people.  Here, more than 15,000 individuals live in cars, vans, and mobile homes.  It is a challenging time for many Americans to buy, or even lease, a place to live.

Meanwhile, across the U.S., there are more homes with three car garages or more than there are one-bedroom apartments.  What a statistic.  The gap between those living in their cars, and those that have a need, and the resources, for a large garage is growing.

Custom Home Builder Houston Heights likes to imagine if this logic were flipped.

Residential garages of all sizes can be well suited for housing unit conversions, as these some renderings can show.  Custom Home Builder Houston Heights prefers to build two car garages.  Although this would provide a smaller apartment.

Many cities have a huge, untapped source of affordable housing.  That’s right, garages. By our estimate, about 400,000 single-family homes in Los Angeles have a two-car garage that could be converted into an apartment. Until recently, Los Angeles prohibited most such conversions.  However, that all changed in 2017, when California enacted a law which overrides local prohibitions.  They law also allows almost any homeowner to convert their garage into an accessory dwelling unit (ADU). In 2016, before the new state law took effect, Los Angeles issued only 117 permits for second units. However, in 2018 that number increased and the city issued 4,171 permits, or 36 for every one issued in 2016.  What an increase in permits.

Many single-family neighborhoods have garages that can provide a new supply of small, well-located, and high-quality apartments.  Additionally, these garages are located within walking distance of stores and public transit, which provides access to work and healthy food options to those that might not otherwise have that convenience.  Converted garages can house boomerang children, grandparents, caretakers, guests, or friends. Converted garages can also can generate rental income to make home ownership more affordable. In San Francisco, one affordable housing developer is planning four garage conversions in the Mission District to make way for low-income residents. Speaking to the Housing executive director at Mission Local, Sam Moss conservatively estimated that hundreds of units like these could be created throughout the city.  There are hopes that other cities will take a similar approach.  “There’s not a lack of garages,” he said. “There’s a lack of landlords saying, ‘I’m done with car storage.’” Custom Home Builder Houston Heights builds garages.  Additionally, Custom Home Builder Houston Heights has clients, friend, and family that are landlords. 

Garage apartments are an example of what has been called “naturally occurring affordable housing.”  This can be better explained as housing that is affordable without public subsidies. The residents of NOAH garage apartments will not compete for the existing supply of affordable housing. This allows the benefits to trickle sideways to everyone in the market for affordable housing. Custom Home Builder Houston Heights builds garage apartments.

Garage apartments create horizontal, distributed, and almost invisible density, instead of vertical, concentrated, and obvious density.  Engineers properly design garage apartments.

As we have previously touched on, several companies and organization in California now offer homeowners a complete service to convert a garage into a rental apartment. These firms secure the necessary permits and then pay the full cost of the conversion.  After this is complete, the firms then split the rental income with the homeowner for an agreed length of time.  This holds as a fee for their efforts.  In the same way, government agencies could subsidize garage conversions as an alternative to building new affordable housing units, which cost an average of $372,000 per unit in California. Custom Home Builder Houston Heights believes this is a typical California inflated price due to their government interference.

For example, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs could offer to pay for converting a garage into an apartment if the homeowner allows a veteran to occupy the new apartment at a low rent for five years, after which the homeowner has unrestricted use of the property. This offer seems especially appropriate if the homeowner appreciates a veteran’s service to the country and if the neighbors approve of (or at least hesitate to publicly oppose) allowing an otherwise homeless military veteran to live nearby.

Many homeowners put up fierce resistance to affordable housing projects near their homes.  However it turns out that those same neighbors may not even notice a garage conversion that swaps cars for people and ultimately leaves the home’s exterior unchanged. Critics can’t say that a converted garage will be out of scale, cast shadows, or otherwise threaten the neighborhood’s character, because it’s already there. Garage apartments create horizontal, distributed, and almost invisible density, instead of vertical, concentrated, and obvious density. Custom Home Builder Houston Heights has found garage apartments to fit very well in the neighborhood.

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When they were illegal, most garage conversions were hidden away in homeowners’ backyards. But now that they are legal, street-facing garages may be the most suitable for new residential uses, for several reasons. The garage apartments will not reduce privacy in the homeowner’s or the neighbors’ backyards, and the apartment-dweller can have more privacy with a separate entrance to the street. Converting a street-facing garage that is part of the house should be cheaper than converting a freestanding backyard garage, because it can connect with the main home’s utilities, and a door into the house can be useful if the apartment is occupied by a family member or caregiver.

Other homeowners might not realize it, but they can benefit from more garage conversions, too: Those apartment residents will provide more eyes on the street, enhancing security for the whole neighborhood, and homeowners can feel safer while they are away if someone is living in the former garage.