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Harford County passes bill that allows county’s elderly residents to stay with family as they age

The Harford County Council passed a zoning law last week that allows accessory dwellings within family member’s home, allowing families to take care of each other as they age.

The bill, which passed unanimously with some amendments, eliminates cottage housing from the county’s zoning law and adds accessory dwelling units — homes within homes of another family member.

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“A lot of these ‘in-law’ suites already exist in the county,” Councilman Chad Shrodes, who spearheaded the bill, said. “This allows them to be legal and safe. They will be inspected and will allow and encourage families to take care of one another.”

According to the bill passed, an accessory dwelling unit is “an independent, self-contained dwelling unit located within a single-family detached dwelling.”

Making such living spaces legal will allow elderly residents to age in place and either avoid or prolong a move to an expensive assisted living facility, Shrodes said.

“It also provides them independence but will also allow family members to be here to check on them as needed,” he said.

Previously, such living quarters were only temporary, and such spaces had to be converted back to the original space once the family member was no long living there.

Any family member can occupy an accessory dwelling unit, not only elderly or disabled family members. It could be a son or daughter who’s lost their job and has to move back home.

The spaces also won’t have to be reverted to their former state in order for the home to be marketed and sold; instead they can be sold with the accessory dwelling unit as an amenity to the home, Shrodes said.

He began working on the bill four years ago, but opted not to pursue it then. He started looking into it again in the spring and the bill went through five drafts before the one the council passed had emerged.

“Families want to take care of their own families and this will allow them legally to do so within their own dwellings in which they reside,” Shrodes said.

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