At the rate we’re going, if you don’t own or live in a granny flat in Melbourne or anywhere else in Australia, chances are you know someone who does. And even if you should be one of the few individuals who aren’t exactly clear on what a granny flat is or the meaning of the term, we’re pretty sure you’ve at least heard the term before.
Chances are again that you’ve heard the words bandied about in casual conversation about how tough it is to find a place to live these days, whether you’re renting or talking about something more permanent. So why are more and more people not just talking about but actually building, investing and living in granny flats?
In this introduction to the compact, cosy (and dare we say chic) world of granny flats, we’ll not be answering “Just what is a granny flat?”. We’ll also be taking a look at how they’re used, who uses them, and some of the latest trends in granny flat building and living.
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
In legalese, a granny flat is built in a residential zone, with only one of them being built on a single property. To be considered a granny flat, the secondary dwelling must not be bigger than 60 square metres in NSW and can be any size in Victoria. It may or may not be attached to the main dwelling, but it must have its own, separate pedestrian access.
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.
Speaking of living in a granny flat as a tenant (if you’re in a part of Australia where it’s legal to do so), a lot of newlyweds or young couples also favour it as a first home. Granny flats are also lived in by visiting friends or relatives, or even the nanny of someone living in the main dwelling.
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. Even if a yard should already have a pool or a beautifully landscaped garden, a granny flat can serve as its “crown jewel”—and a fully functional one, at that (it’s at least more practical than a gazebo, anyway).
Granny to the Rescue
As the cost of finding a decent home in Australia continues to skyrocket, granny flats are increasingly seen as a, if not, “the” solution to finding affordable housing. News.com.au quotes Flatmates.com.au as saying that granny flat rentals had gone up by 16% in 2016, and searches for granny flats went up by 84% in the last quarter of that year alone.
This has been a real bonanza for Australia’s granny flat owners, who were receiving an average of A$283 a week in rent in 2016. This has encouraged more property owners to shell out some A$105,000 to A$125,000 to build their own potential gold mines in their backyards, (whether they had a granny 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 keep up with these trends, lawmakers in certain parts of Australia have been making it easier to build (and eventually, hopefully to rent) granny flats. In New South Wales, for instance, the Affordable Rental Housing State Environmental Planning Policy or SEPP, says you can build a granny flat in any residential zone, and get approval in 10 days flat.
News.com.au also points out how the regulations in Western Australia, the Australian Capital Territory, the Northern Territory and Tasmania are just as granny flat-friendly.
Victoria, however, has yet to relax its rather stringent granny flat laws, which stipulate, among other things, that a granny flat must be torn down if the granny living there should pass away. Queensland and South Australia don’t allow granny flats to be rented out, either.
Granny is Trending
Be things as they may, it looks like granny flats will continue to trend—the Financial Review has reported that granny flat living is particularly on the rise in Melbourne and Sydney.
With Melbourne’s population at around 5 million as of June 2018, The Guardian has reported that it is projected to hit 7.7 million by 2051, and that 1.6 million new homes are going to be needed.
As the housing affordability issue doesn’t look like it’s going away any time soon, it’s safe to say that granny flats are going to keep on playing a major part in giving Australians a decent, sustainable and economical place to live.
If you’re looking to “future-proof” your housing options for you or your loved ones, talk to experts with over 43 years of experience in designing and building relocatable homes and granny flats across Melbourne. The crowning glory of your garden today, might just prove to be a comfortable, practical investment in more ways than one for you tomorrow.