Granny Pods Scrutinized in Minnesota Cities

Aging in place has gotten a whole lot easier in that past few years with the invention of granny pods, which can help seniors cut down on the high costs of senior living. However, some cities are taking steps to regulate the small, camper-like homes on land near family members by banning them entirely.

One in five Americans live in households with two or more adult generations, according to The Center on Aging & Working at Boston College, and granny pods could be the perfect solution for multigenerational households while maintaining independence for older family members. But some areas in the country are not seeing all of the benefits of granny pods, and lawmakers are discussing bans in hopes of regulating this uncharted territory of housing, explains a recent article by Minneapolis Public Radio (MPR).

For Minnesota, in particular, some of these rules are having a harsh impact on local granny pod businesses. Cities such as St. Cloud, Minneapolis, St. Paul and a number of metro-area suburbs, have banned granny pods or are likely to do so, the article says. The state of Minnesota passed legislation this past spring that allows granny pods, but left it up to individual counties to decide whether or not to allow them within their municipality.

The potential bans on granny pods may force seniors to find other options for care, but around-the-clock care usually comes with a hefty price tag. The price of a home care worker visiting two to three times a week costs around $20,000, but if a higher level of care is needed, the cost can easily climb to more than $40,000, according to a 2012 MetLife Market Survey on long-term care costs.

The granny pod law in Minnesota mandates that portable homes cannot exceed 300 square feet and must be on property where a caregiver or relative lives. A medical professional must also vouch that the person occupying the unit needs help with two or more activities of daily living.

Minnesota residents, as well as state legislatures, are having mixed feelings about the granny pod revolution. Some communities are backing up their ban by saying they want more time to study this new type of housing and how to deal with it.

“We do see it fitting into the mix of housing options for older adults,” Kari Benson, Minnesota Board on Aging executive, says in the article. “As we’re looking toward an aging population with the aging of the baby boomers, we need all of the options at least considered on the table.”

NextDoor Housing of Big Lake, Minnesota, builds granny pods and is confident that even with recent bans, there are still a number of opportunities in rural Minnesota, John Louiselle, co-founder of NextDoor Housing, says in the MPR article. Other companies around the country that have entered the market with similar products include MedCottage, FabCab and the Home Store.

NextDoor Housing’s granny pods are designed to meet or exceed the construction standards for recreational vehicles and also withstand the harsh winters in Minnesota, Louiselle says in the article. The company partnered with local home manufacturer, Homark Homes of Red Lake Falls, to build the pods and mount them on steel trailers that can be hauled by pickup truck. NextDoor Housing’s units usually sell for $45,000.

Read the full article and listen to the audio story at MPR News.

Written by Alana Stramowski