Two Family Homes

My first job out of college was working for Macy’s. I was placed in Kings Plaza Brooklyn to run the cosmetic department. I had never set foot in that area of the world until then. We explored all parts of Brooklyn including a few weekends at Rockaway Beach in the summer months. A magical fascinating place for someone who grew up in suburbia.

About 150 women worked for me when I was 21. I learned a lot about their lives. The one thing that I had never heard of before then is the two family home. Many of them owned a house that was designed with a part of it as a secondary home that they would rent out to someone. Essentially that portion of their house gave them the income to live in their homes and other costs of life.

I went to a few of those homes and thought the concept was pretty genius. AirBnb took this one step further. Ideas are rarely new but become something different. When 40% of Americans can’t cover a surprise $400 emergency expense, we have to look immediately to housing on how that must change in the years to come. The cost of housing has become so high and having a room over your head is number one.

Will we begin to see more of this concept in the rebuilding of cities and new developments? The one thing that read to me loud and clear when I first saw the “two-home” model is the community created. I like the model of two for one for many reasons from multi-generational including a younger couple living in that second home or your grandparents.

It has worked in Brooklyn and Queens for decades. It can work other places too.

Comments (Archived):

  1. awaldstein

    This is smart and never put the pieces together this way.But do know folks in semi rural type of areas like Santa Ynez that have built second places on their property with this in mind.

    1. Gotham Gal

      As they should!

      1. awaldstein

        I fell into this recently as considering a spot on a friends place there to write and hang out as it is beautiful, surrounding by wineries and populated by a ton of artists.We shall see but you have woven this together well.

  2. Pointsandfigures

    We have three flats in Chicago. One of the interesting historical pieces of American culture is our adoption of the idea that you leave are independent and set up your own household. 100% separate yet with loose ties back to the original family. Very unlike the EU history Read about this in the book America 3.0

  3. JLM

    .The main house-carriage house concept originated in the US with the founding of the Colony of Georgia and the City of Savannah in 1733.The City of Savannah was laid out in London by designers working for General James Oglethorpe. It was the first truly master planned city in the Colonies. The plan with its central park and more than two dozen landscaped squares exists to this day.The design provided for lanes (alleys) behind the homes for services. The carriage houses were sited on the lanes with housing upstairs. To this day — Savannah was not destroyed during the Civil War though it was captured by Gen Wm T Sherman, the Satan of Fire — the carriage house concept survives even in new construction.Today, large homes have rental units in the ground floor (often the old fashioned English basement wherein the kitchen might have been located when it was brought indoors) and the carriage house with the main family residence being what we would call the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th floors.The City of Savannah and the Colony of Georgia at its founding prohibited lawyers, slavery, Catholics, and whiskey. Slavery was forced upon Georgia by the British Parliament in 1751 to accommodate the rice planters of S Carolina who wanted to till the Georgia lowlands, perfect rice land.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  4. LE

    When 40% of Americans can’t cover a surprise $400 emergency expenseI think you have to look at the way people spend money as to why they can’t cover an emergency expense. Very likely you will find they are spending money to buy things they shouldn’t be buying and that they can’t ‘afford’.

  5. LE

    I will re-post here something that I said elsewhere about the topic of housing:Maybe they need to do something more creative and less costly than construction and land acquisition in NYC?Something like paying people and giving incentives to move somewhere else.For example it would be similar to the concept of a company offering employees ‘early retirement’. You pay people money to leave. In this case you take advantage of the fact that for a monetary incentive there will be people living in NYC who are not tied to NYC in any big way or even if they are would like to use the relocation money as a justification (to other members of their family) to move elsewhere.And taking it one step further the relocation places could get into a bidding process for the residents who would move to their communities.It would not necessarily involve a long distance move either.Atlantic City NJ is kind of nice and housing is super cheap there is a boardwalk and an ocean and ‘entertainment’. Just one example. I own some real estate around there. I have places next to the boardwalk that I don’t even want to tell you how cheap they rent for. ($800/month and it’s a safe area with the Ocean!!!)Jobs important? Maybe not. Think of how many people are just living off retirement or collecting social security. Those people are taking up apartments in NYC that are rent controlled and are ‘lifers’. Get them to move and viola. And don’t say ‘nah they won’t move’. They will if there is money. Enough of them to move the needle maybe.(And there are ways to move in jobs as well..)Of course housing in the destinations would then rise in value so the ‘spoils’ would have to be spread around. Not just one community.Think of how many rent controlled apartments could be freed up if people received an incentive to move elsewhere. Move the needle? Why does every idea have to be a blockbuster? Maybe a collection of small ideas would be helpful.

  6. LE

    I really wonder if people living in some of this housing in NYC are even aware of what can be purchased elsewhere for the same amount of money with vastly better quality of life. I think people are stuck where they are. Some for valid reasons but many because they simply don’t know any better.Kind of like you. You could have stayed on the West Coast but had enough going on to know you should be somewhere else. Most people aren’t that way they stay where they grow up and with what they know. They don’t even know of the alternatives.

  7. Semil Shah

    A couple of thoughts — 1/ there is housing in other areas but of course there may not be immediate economic opportunities and/or family/social ties in those areas; 2/ increased housing policies need to be made in lockstep with investments in either ridesharing and/or public transit etc improvements. For instance in the Bay Area, people are building like crazy up and down El Camino from SF all the way to San Jose, but there is no talk of where all those cars will go. // Where did you grow up in surburbia?

    1. LE

      there is housing in other areas but of course there may not be immediate economic opportunities and/or family/social ties in those areasIf you can’t afford you can’t afford. Unfortunately while jobs matter, family and social ties may have to take a back seat. And there are jobs elsewhere. Maybe they are not ideal. But not everyone can get an ideal job and it shouldn’t be expected either.Look at all the people who comes from other counties (for opportunity here) and will not get to see their family (in the home country). Much harder than a 5 or 6 hour car ride or short airplane ride. Joanne relocated from the West Coast where I believe her family was for opportunity in NYC.You do what you have to do and not expect someone else (or the government) to ensure that you can remain where you are.

    2. Gotham Gal

      I started in LA, then to Ann Arbor and then to the burbs of DC (Maryland)

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