With many houses around the country in foreclosure, an idea regarding McMansions has popped up in a few places: why not subdivide these large suburban homes into multiple units? A writer for the Sarasota Herald-Tribune brings up this suggestion when reviewing a book about granny-flats:
The only serious omission is any example that would show how the enormous, 4,000-square-foot, 5- or 6-bedroom McMansions that dot the country could be creatively subdivided into separate living units. This strikes me as an obvious move because it would create affordable housing for renters while it would help financially pressed owners to stay in their houses. And the square footage that would be allocated to a granny flat would not be missed — most owners of these big houses have a lot of space they never use.
Litchfield concurred that such conversions seem obvious, but in most cases, he said, suburban residential zoning codes prohibit it.
Several things are interesting in this short section:
1. The McMansion is roughly 4,000 square feet and larger according to this writer.
2. Subdividing the McMansion would benefit multiple parties: the homeowner who could rent out a few units and people who need affordable housing, a particular need in higher-end suburbs where a lot of the available jobs are service or low-paying jobs but there is little nearby housing for such workers.
3. People have so much space in these 4,000+ square foot homes that they won’t really miss the extra space. I wonder if anyone has ever studied this in large homes: how much of the space is regularly used or even filled with furniture or storage? Is this really unused space or is this just the perception?
4. Zoning codes generally are against this idea as single-family home districts typically restrict the creation of multiple units out of single units. Once renters are in a neighborhood, people often have the impression that the neighborhood has changed: renters don’t care as much about keeping up the property, renters are different types of people than homeowners (sometimes hinting at class or race concerns), etc. But if converting larger homes into multiple units helps stave off foreclosures, should communities allow renting rather than contributing to empty houses in empty neighborhoods (which brings on its own set of issues)?
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