The way things are going, if you’re not a granny flat owner in Melbourne or elsewhere in Australia, you probably know someone who is. Even if you’re not sure what a granny flat is, you’ve likely heard of it.
You’ve probably heard people discussing the challenge of finding housing, whether it’s for rent or something more permanent. So, why are more people not only talking about but also constructing, investing in, and living in granny flats?
In this intro to the world of granny flats – compact, cozy, and even chic – we won’t just define “granny flat.” We’ll also explore their usage, users, and the latest trends in building and living in them.
So What Is A “Granny Flat”?
A granny flat is defined as a “secondary dwelling”, as opposed to the “main dwelling” on a homeowner’s property. It has many aliases, which include
- Accessory apartment
- Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU)
- Bonus unit
- Carriage unit
- Fonzie flat
- Garden studio
- Granny pod
- In-law apartment
- Kit house
- Mother-in-law unit
- Tiny house
Legally, property owners construct granny flats in residential areas, and only one can be built on a single property. To qualify as a granny flat, it must not exceed 60 square meters in NSW and can vary in size in Victoria. It may or may not connect to the main house, but it must have its own separate walkway.
If you’re going to build a granny flat, your block has to be at least 450 square metres, and you have to be the legal owner of both the main and secondary dwelling. You can’t build a granny flat on property with a community title or a shared or strata title, nor can you build one on an empty or commercial property.
Who Uses Granny Flats and for What?
If you said “granny” or even “grandad”, you would be right, but you are only scratching the surface. Children of the family who’ve come of age and who are ready to move out (psychologically, if not financially) often live in granny flats, either on their parents’ or someone else’s property.
In parts of Australia where it’s allowed, newlyweds and young couples often make granny flats their first homes, and they are also used by visiting friends, relatives, or nannies of the main dwelling’s occupants.
That said, there are also many secondary dwellings that don’t exactly live up to the “dwelling” part of their name. Instead of having a full-time resident, many granny flats are likewise used as a home office or a studio, or simply as a place for getting a little “me-time” away from a full family home.
But many people who have granny flats built use them as a way to enhance the value and sometimes even the overall look of their property. In a landscaped yard with a pool, a granny flat can be a practical and valuable addition, unlike a gazebo, for instance.
Granny to the Rescue
With soaring housing costs in Australia, granny flats are becoming a key solution for affordable housing. News.com.au cites Flatmates.com.au, reporting a 16% increase in granny flat rentals in 2016, along with an 84% rise in granny flat searches in the last quarter of that year.
In 2016, Australia’s granny flat owners earned an average of A$283 a week in rent, inspiring more property owners to invest A$105,000 to A$125,000 in building income-generating units in their backyards, regardless of whether they had a granny living there or not.
For property owners looking to build granny flats in Melbourne, prices can range between as little as A$10,000 (don’t get your hopes for a House Beautiful up) to as much as A$120,000. Depending on the size and the materials used to build the granny flat, there are affordable alternatives that do offer real value for money if you know where to look.
To follow these trends, certain Australian regions are streamlining the construction and rental of granny flats. In New South Wales, the Affordable Rental Housing State Environmental Planning Policy (SEPP) permits granny flats in residential zones, with approval achievable in as little as 10 days.
News.com.au notes that regulations in Western Australia, the Australian Capital Territory, the Northern Territory, and Tasmania are equally favorable to granny flats.
However, Victoria still enforces strict granny flat laws, which mandate the demolition of a granny flat if the resident, typically a family member referred to as “granny,” were to pass away. In addition, both Queensland and South Australia prohibit the rental of granny flats.
Granny is Trending
Nevertheless, the Financial Review reports that granny flats are gaining popularity in Melbourne and Sydney.
The Guardian reports Melbourne’s population, around 5 million in June 2018, is projected to reach 7.7 million by 2051, requiring 1.6 million new homes.
With housing affordability remaining a persistent issue, it’s clear that granny flats will continue to provide Australians with decent, sustainable, and affordable living solutions.
For future-proof housing solutions, consult experts with 43+ years’ experience in designing and building relocatable homes and granny flats in Melbourne. Your garden’s crowning glory today could be a wise and practical investment for your tomorrow.