“Granny” or “Nanny” pods are small, temporary housing units placed adjacent to a permanent home, allowing caregivers easy access to infirm relatives. They are legal in a number of states, including Connecticut since October 1, though municipalities can allow or disallow these alternative homes. Newtown Planning and Zoning earlier this month denied Newtown homeowners the opportunity to place such a structure on single-home property, the Borough Zoning Commission has indicated it intends to opt out, and mid-month, the Legislative Council voted “no” to granny pods. Among objections by these boards are the belief that housing options currently in place are adequate for impaired people, and a bristling at the state’s nerve to influence municipal zoning laws.
It seems a disservice to swiftly put the nix on this option, even with a “for now” caveat. This is an issue that bears further examination, before Not In My Back Yard (NIMBY) becomes the new moniker for Newtown.
It seems unlikely that granny pods would populate properties in high numbers — not everyone with an infirm loved one is able to act as a caregiver, nor are pods and placement inexpensive. The units are an answer to the nursing home shortage and a viable alternative for those families who could care for a debilitated loved one, if that person was close by — but cannot make space within the existing home. Renovations to a home, ranging from wheelchair accessibility to a handicap accessible bath to an entire private addition, and installing safety equipment, are expensive — and permanent — undertakings for a temporary period in the homeowner’s life.
Other states have limited the size of these temporary homes to 300 or 500 square feet in total. Exterior photos of sales models show little houses that are certainly more attractive than tool sheds. Most consist of a sleeping/living area, a full bath accessible by a caregiver, and a small cooking area. Onboard waste water storage built into some models can be pumped by a septic waste company on a monthly schedule, and electricity and water can be tapped into the main house on the property. Safety measures for the elderly and infirm are incorporated into the structures, allowing resident and caregiver to have some peace of mind.
Granny pods offer the infirm semi-independence and a means of receiving loving care in a dignified manner.
It remains to be seen if town officials will make time to further investigate the pros and cons of this alternative, or if a hasty response to a hasty state law will be the final word. Other states and municipalities that have incorporated granny pods into zoning may have answers to questions our officials have — How do town zoning officers verify medical documentation? How is waste disposal handled? What happens to these pods once they are no longer needed?
A second look, sooner rather than later, might open the door to caring, end-of-life homes for grannies and a family-friendly option for the nannies who love them.