Perkins & Co. Architects via the Tyee
In hard times like the current recession, many people rent out basements or rooms in their houses, but apartment dwellers cannot do it easily. Designing flexible, affordable housing is a challenge that architects have not often risen to successfully- Apartment designs are usually fixed and do not adapt to changes in income, lifestyle or size of family. And as mortgages get harder to find, the extra income from renting out part of an apartment could make a critical difference.
That is why the designs recently approved in Burnaby, BC are so intriguing; they are purported to be the first legalized secondary suites within apartments. Designed to provide housing for students, the blue zone can be "locked off" and rented out separately and has its own entrance. It's kind of like a basement apartment in the sky. The Tyee discusses student housing, but the impact of this kind of thinking goes far beyond that.
Condos and apartments are not very good at adapting to life cycles; one starts out with a small one, moves when they have kids, then has too much space when the kids are gone. (Or you are stuck with them and have no privacy when you want it).
Designs like this would let young people rent out part of their apartment until they need it, getting some extra income to help with the mortgage, and then could use the space with the family comes along.
Then there is the issue of ageing in place, which I am going through with my mother right now. If she lived in an apartment like this, she could have a live-in companion or assistant and still maintain a level of privacy and feeling of independence.
It isn't a new concept; Kathryn McCamant and Charles Durrett talk about it a lot in their important book Cohousing: A contemporary approach to housing ourselves.
They demonstrate how "flexible rooms or "give and take" rooms can be exchanged between the dwelling on either side, which is another twist.
There is not much different in the lockoff suite plan shown at the top and a typical two bed, two bath condo being built in Toronto or New York; a little extra space for circulation and an extra door. But it could make a world of difference in how it is used and how long people can live in it. If we are going to design homes for living instead of flipping, we have to start thinking this way.