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Can 'Granny Flats' And 'Fonzie Flats' Help Solve Broward's Affordable Housing Problem?

(Courtesy/Broward County Planning Council)
A few examples of Accessory Dwelling Units, also known as "granny flats."

Many South Floridians who rent an apartment or house are spending too much to keep the roof over their heads. Recent studies show that more than a third of renters in the region spend over half their income on housing.

A 15-year-old amendment to Florida law might offer a present-day solution. In 2004, the change encouraged local governments to allow single-family homeowners to build secondary houses called “accessory dwelling units," or ADUs, on their property. The stand-alone homes are often called “granny flats” or “mother-in-law” cottages because adult children sometimes use them to accommodate aging parents.

And then there's the "Fonzie flat," named after the leather jacket-clad character Arthur Fonzarelli in the TV sitcom "Happy Days," who lived in a converted apartment above the Cunningham family's garage.

Sandra Veszi Einhorn, Executive Director of the Coordinating Council of Broward, sees great possibilities in the Fonzie flat. A lack of land is a major contributing factor to the affordable housing crisis.

"Realistically, in Broward County we don't have lot sizes large enough for us to be able to build separate units. So there might be garages that could be converted and maybe some tiny homes on some select parcels," she says. "We are completely built out." 

Veszi Einhorn says other factors responsible for the affordable housing crunch are strict, post-Hurricane Andrew building codes and a labor force comprised of workers holding mostly low-wage service sector jobs.

Christine DiMattei is WLRN's Morning Edition anchor and also reports on Arts & Culture.
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