Backyard Cottages: Affordable Housing Solution?

It's a story that touches upon the nation's economic woes, the challenge of preventing sprawl, and the quirky ingenuity of the Pacific Northwest. But is the trend of renting one's backyard cottage really big enough to have any effect beyond the symbolic? Well, yes and no.

The focus of a recent USA Today article is mostly on Seattle, where the city has seen an increase in the number of backyard cottages in single-family neighborhoods since the city changed zoning rules in 2006. It quotes one property-owner, who built a single-bedroom, 437-square-foot cottage on the site of his former garage, as saying. "I want to preserve rural areas around Seattle, and I don't want the suburbs continuing to march on without any limits.

"One way to do that," says the homeowner, 47-year-old architect John Stoeck, "is to add more density to these inner-city neighborhoods."