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When The Kids Don’t Leave Home

House prices are moving out of reach for young Kiwis. More parents are facing having their adult kids staying at home, but there are solutions that give everyone their own space, says Brenda Ward.

11 October 2021

What do you do when the kids don’t leave home?

This is a growing problem for many Kiwi parents right now. Jobs for young people are getting harder to find and drops in KiwiSaver balances mean many millennials can’t now afford a house deposit.

Hannah Thomson, director of planning consultancy Planning Plus, says she’s increasingly getting calls for help from parents.

“We hear of parents wanting to help their kids out, often by allowing them to move back home to save money, but also by providing some accommodation on their own land for the children,” she says.

Senior Planner Jo Michalakis agrees.

“We often see new builds purpose-built to accommodate multi-generational living, and we’ve recently gained resource consent approval for several tiny houses, which are growing in popularity.”

Families are often looking for information on planning a sleepout, building a minor dwelling, subdividing their section, or providing a self-contained area in the existing house, Thomson says.

Here are some ways to love them but leave them.

Split the house

If you own a bigger home, one of the cheapest ways to get separation is to start with your existing house, Thomson says.

“You may be able to split your existing house into two, to create a self-contained area for your teenagers or young people.

“But you’ll still be living very close to another person or family, so you need to be sure you’re comfortable with that.

“This is different to a minor dwelling, where the other people would often be slightly separated from your living areas and you’d have more privacy.”

Older houses from the 1970s and 1980s are especially useful for splitting, she says.

“They commonly have living and bedroom areas upstairs, and a garage, rumpus room, or hobby room downstairs. This area can lend itself to being self-contained.

“There are various ways you can do this in planning terms.”

If it’s designed well, you may not need a resource consent, says Thomson. “There are planning rules you need to comply with, though, and these vary depending on the zone your site is in.

Rural zones are harder

“As a general comment, in rural zones, splitting a dwelling into two is much harder to get resource consent for. I’d suggest you get planning advice before proceeding too far. The risk might be too high to proceed.”

You may need a building consent. She suggests talking to a planner, so you know what resource consents you’ll need, and it’s wise to talk to an architectural designer, so you don’t end up with odd spaces.

“Keep resale value in mind, consider fire rating, parking, services, and if you want a separate unit or to keep both on one title.”


Could a sleepout be an answer to your prayers?

A sleepout is typically a building separate from the main house used as extra accommodation, says Thomson. It has no cooking or kitchen facilities and usually shares facilities with the main dwelling.

It’s used in association with the main house and isn’t a standalone self-contained accommodation option.

It’s often a cost-effective option, says Thomson.

“Depending on the specifics of your site and where you put the sleepout, you often don’t need a resource consent, which can save you time and money,” she says.

“You will, however, usually need to check building consent requirements with your local council. From August 2020, basic sleepouts up to 30 square metres can be constructed without building consent provided you use a Licensed Builder Practitioner or Chartered Professional Engineer. We still recommend that you check with your local council though, as things like plumbing would trigger a building consent.”

There’s often confusion between a sleepout and a ‘minor dwelling’, she says.

The key difference between the two is installing a kitchen.

A sleepout is dependent on the main dwelling and used in association with it – this is the key difference between the two. A minor dwelling has its own kitchen facilities (where food is stored, prepared and cooked).

Removable buildings can be adapted to be a sleepout. But you could still need a resource consent, says Thomson, even if the building is portable.

Under the Resource Management Act, temporary or removable buildings are often treated in the same way as permanent buildings. You’ll usually need some advice to say if a sleepout can be put on a site, even if it’s temporary.

Sleepouts and minor dwellings can be more complicated than they seem, says Thomson.

“They’re also highly visible, so it’s easy for neighbours to complain to the council about them.

“It’s always better to check your facts in advance.”

Minor dwellings

Thomson says minor dwellings, also known as granny flats, can be a good solution for young adults, grandparents, or a way to make a bit of extra income.

Thomson says a minor dwelling must be secondary to the main dwelling and have some element of dependence to the main dwelling, like shared access.

And generally they can’t be bigger than 65 square metres. Depending on the number of bedrooms, they need between five and eight square metres of private open space with a minimum depth of 1.8 metres, and one car parking space.

In Auckland, minor dwellings can only be built in specific zones. Other councils may have different rules.

You’ll need a building consent and will need to pay development contributions on top of any resource consent or building consent fees, because your extra dwelling is increasing demand for council services such as roads, service lines and community facilities.

Subdivide and build

If you have a big site, why not build a new house on your land for the kids?

In some Auckland zones, you may be able to subdivide your section. How many sites you can subdivide off and how many houses you can build all depends on the zoning of your site, its size and other factors, such as flooding.

Building a new house is a big project, she says, but the kids may be able to share in the cost of the development.

For more information, see their website, www.planningplus.co.nz.

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