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Posted at 3:30 PM ET, 05/ 7/2010

The "college dropout pod"? Why not?

By David Alpert

Wednesday's Post reported on a controversial new idea for senior citizens: mobile housing units that could be temporarily placed in backyards to give seniors a way to partially move in with relatives instead of going to nursing homes.

Supervisor Jeff McKay of Fairfax derided the idea, calling it a "granny pod," and asked, "What's next? The college dropout pod?"

Actually, why not?

Our region has lots of single-family housing but, despite all the building in recent years, not enough housing for empty-nesters, seniors and young people. That's because we spent 50 years building almost nothing but large, single-family homes, which are nice for those who want to live in that environment, can afford them, have a big family and can endure long drives. But this kind of housing doesn't work for many other people.

One of the best ways to deal with housing shortages is through "accessory dwellings," or letting people rent out extra space, such as a garage or a basement. That could provide needed income to retired people who own large houses but have limited incomes and don't need all their space. Having a way to temporarily add space for a grown child or an elderly parent is another sensible solution.

Many suburban towns have built up complex laws to prevent anyone but rich, large families from living there. But that doesn't really serve the needs of the residents of those towns any longer, let alone the region. It's time for a little more flexibility.

David Alpert is founder and editor of Greater Greater Washington. The Local Blog Network is a group of bloggers from around the D.C. region who have agreed to make regular contributions to All Opinions Are Local.

By David Alpert  | May 7, 2010; 3:30 PM ET
Categories:  HotTopic, Local blog network, housing  
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