Would you make your mom live in your backyard? That’s what adult kids are doing in California!

Deanna Dewberry
Created: December 15, 2020 07:47 PM

Editor's Note: This story was produced through the New York & Michigan Solutions Journalism Collaborative, a partnership of news organizations and universities dedicated to rigorous and compelling reporting about responses to social problems. The group is supported by the Solutions Journalism Network.

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — Rochester is aging. I'm not talking about our buildings or infrastructure. I'm talking about us. We have a greater percentage of people over the age of 65 than any other city in New York state.

News10NBC is part of a collaborative team of ten media organizations in western New York looking for elder caregiving solutions. My partners with USA Today and The Minority Reporter investigated the use of accessory dwelling units or ADUs and the impact they're having in some California communities. Below is part of my discussion with Sasha Taddeo of USA Today Network and Tyronda James of The Minority Reporter.

Sarah Taddeo: "An accessory dwelling unit is essentially a small living unit in the backyard or side yard or a residential property that already has a home on it… and typically they have to, by law, have a kitchen, bathroom and a bedroom. It's a great space for you if you have a loved one or a parent who wants to live near your family and maybe can't afford and apartment or another home or space at a senior living facility. This is something that could really work for families trying to care for a loved one.” 

Deanna Dewberry: “No doubt. That would have been ideal for my parents, but we're not zoned for it here [in Rochester.] Tyronda, if you could tell us where you found these units and what precipitated that community saying this is something that we need."

Tyronda James: "We found them in California, the San Jose area, the Santa Cruz area… They were at risk of losing their homes and the older parents needed to be cared for."

The reporters talked to two families who both chose an ADU for an elder loved one.  One man chose to put his mother-in-law’s accessory dwelling unit in his backyard. 

Sasha Taddeo: "They looked at a company that had a pre-fabricated ADU, and they just kind of came one day, dropped it in, and that's what they ordered. And he said, you know, it's great to have her [his mother-in-law] on the property, but she also has her independent space."

Another man they interviewed turned his garage into an ADU for his mother.

Sarah Taddeo: "So they're currently in the process of moving into that ADU. It's all finished, and it’s beautiful. You're like, was that a garage? And it worked out. It was the best solution for them in the end. This is an amazing idea that we should really bring to Rochester if we can."    

So the big question is could city leaders bring the concept to Rochester? There would be some hurdles to overcome, the biggest of which is changing zoning laws. Look for the full story this Thursday in The Minority Reporter and Sunday in The Democrat and Chronicle.


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