The Rise in "Mother-in-Law" Apartments Around Portland

by | Jan 6, 2016 | Living Urban | 0 comments

The recession brought many changes in the housing market. From a lender perspective, the practice of handing out mortgage loans to unsuitable candidates has virtually ended, although it is once again becoming easier for would-be homeowners to secure the loans they seek. As for those looking to improve their living situation during a time when buying and selling homes was difficult, the belt-tightening mentality prevalent during the recession led more than a few to install accessory dwelling units (ADUs), or mother-in-law apartments, in their existing homes. Even with the recession in the rearview mirror these days, though, the number of Portland modern homes featuring these stand-alone spaces seems to be on the rise.

Perhaps this could be attributed in part to the aging baby boomer population. Adult children interested in helping their parents and keeping down costs might be keen to move elderly relatives out of Portland condos and into their own homes. More likely, though, there are two key factors that have spurred this increase in homes featuring basement apartments, above-garage dwellings, and additions of other accessory units.

The first culprit is probably the 2009 decision to waive development fees in Portland, after which the number of applications for building permits rose dramatically. Households looking to grow to accommodate relatives and guests rather than trying to purchase a new home in a recession economy probably played a part. However, it is likely that the potential for passive income played a major role, as well. When the housing market tanked and homes started falling into foreclosure en masse, the rental market boomed. While Portland neighborhoods featuring single-family homes suffered as banks foreclosed left and right, the market for Portland lofts and apartments for rent increased.

Homeowners looking to take advantage of the situation and bring in a little extra cash saw opportunity in both the development fee waiver and the booming rental market. With mother-in-law apartments installed, homeowners facing layoffs and a long recession could find a way to get the money needed to pay the mortgage and other living expenses by renting out a portion of their property. The additional growth of services like Airbnb and VRBO gave homeowners even more reason to create separate living spaces in their houses.

Today, the economy is recovering, slowly but surely. It seems, though, that people have learned a lesson or two about the potential downfall of keeping up with the Joneses. Perhaps this explains the booming market for mother-in-law apartments and tiny homes alike, as responsible adults look for ways to trim the fat and live within their means. With Portland officials likely to reinstate development fees in the near future to fund city infrastructure maintenance, applications for building permits will probably drop in response, but for now the rise of mother-in-law apartment continues.