Public Opinion: Hilary Stokes

Hilary Stokes is a Raleigh realtor, and is an active downtown resident involved with the Downtown Living Advocates and Triangle Wiki. She supports backyard cottages as a progressive housing type, and as a way to make her living situation more flexible, for herself and family members.

I love the idea of a backyard cottage.  I want to build one here.  I expect that one day my parents may need my care and they can live in my house and I’d live in the cottage.  I think we need more creative housing types.  I understand that people are concerned about students and slumlords, but certainly other cities have figured that out by now.  

It was brought to my attention that there has been considerable push back on backyard cottages and cottage courts in the UDO. I wanted to share my thoughts based on my interaction with home buyers in this area.
1) At a higher level, Raleigh is being positioned as an innovative hub.  I think this campaign has been successful so far, but I don’t really see our housing options as being very innovative.  The most unique thing I have seen is the proposed apartment building near campus that will not have any parking.  Entrepreneurs and other people are being sold on Raleigh, but are we delivering what they want from a housing perspective?  There is a vision for Raleigh and the UDO needs to align with that vision.
2)  Cottage Courts – People are living differently.  Buyers pay attention to how they live and want walkability.  The house itself is no longer the only consideration.  Neighborhood is crucial.  Not everyone wants a big house and a big yard.  What matters is how the home and the community live.  Young buyers don’t mind living 5 feet away from someone else.  I envision the cottage courts being for someone who doesn’t want a lot of maintenance but doesn’t want a shared wall of a condo or town home.  Cottage courts would be great for seniors looking for an intimate community with one level living.  I see such opportunity for the cottage courts as positive infill projects similar to Rosengarten Park.  Tight, dense, but super cute houses in a walkable area.  People thrive off the energy of a neighborhood where lots of people are out and active.  These pocket neighborhoods would be very attractive to the buyers I work with.  Young people don’t want to be isolated, and neither do many of the seniors that I talk to.
3) Backyard apartments – I assume that the push back here is concern about these apartments being occupied by students.  I understand the concerns about students. I walk along Chamberlin, Stafford, and Clark all the time and see how run down some of those homes are.  But I don’t see this as the same issue.  If a home owner who is occupying their main home wants to rent the back apt to a student, I think that situation will be self-policing.  Mingling students among owner-occupied* housing is not going to cause a neighborhood to be run down. The home owners will not stand for poor behavior or whatever the concern is.  It’s when students are lumped together where we see problems (Maiden Lane, for example). That’s just my observation.  There are a few houses on my street that are rental -they are either students or very recent graduates – but they do not get out of line.  They are the minority and if there is a concern, a homeowner nips it in the bud quickly.
I think there are ways to respect the citizens of Raleigh and address concerns without throwing these innovative ideas out completely.  There has to be a middle ground somewhere.
I hope you will consider how the UDO can be yet another proof point for how Raleigh is attracting the creative class.
*One concern is that due to NC state law, a city cannot regulate that the home-owner live on the property.
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