The next big fight over housing could happen, literally, in your back yard

From The Washington Post:

LOS ANGELES — In the new home Julia Coffee designed for herself, handpicking the tiles and the flooring and the red front door, the microwave doesn’t work. Neither does the dishwasher, the garbage disposal, the washing machine, nor — including on 100-degree days — the central air.

Everything else runs on braided extension cords that snake into the bedrooms, through the living room, across the kitchen floor, out the window, through the yard and into her daughter’s house. Charles, Coffee’s 82-year-old husband who relies on a walker, tends to accidentally unplug things.

“We have a nice little place here,” said Julia Coffee, 74. “But we really would like to get our power turned on.”

The Coffees built their two-bedroom home, the smallest they’ve lived in since they were married 44 years ago, in their daughter’s back yard. They were just finishing the place when a lawsuit earlier this year against the city of Los Angeles brought permits for homes like theirs — second units on single-family lots — to a halt. As a result, city officials who gave them permission to build now haven’t given them a certificate of occupancy, and the utility won’t connect them to the power grid.

Second homes, often called “granny flats,” have become a new front in the conflict that pits the need for more housing in the country’s most expensive cities against the wishes of neighbors who want to preserve their communities. The same battles flare over large developments that might loom over single-family neighborhoods. But even this modest idea for new housing — let homeowners build it in their own back yards — has run into not-in-my-back-yard resistance.

And the difficulty of implementing even such a small-scale solution shows why it will be hard to make room in crowded cities for the middle- and working-class households who increasingly …

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