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A Boom of New Urban Homes, One Tiny, Trendy Lot at a Time

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By Andrew Khouri

The homes are clustered in mini-communities, a modern twist on L.A.’s famed bungalow courts. There are no shared walls, but neighbors are separated by mere inches. Developers enclose the miniature gap between the homes to keep out water and unwanted critters, giving the impression of town houses.

Such projects grow from a 2005 Los Angeles city ordinance that aimed to add more affordable for-sale housing — at least by L.A. standards — in densely packed neighborhoods. It allows developers to carve up a lot zoned for multi-family use into small single-family plots, allowing multiple homes with separate foundations. The regulations chopped the minimum single-family lot size in those areas from 5,000 square feet to 600 square feet. The city of Glendale, Calif., is now considering a similar ordinance.

Unlike condos, residents of small-lot homes own a plot of land, which makes financing easier for both builders and home buyers. And while small-lot owners pay a monthly fee for common area upkeep, it’s typically much less than homeowners’ association dues at condo developments.

Navar, of the architecture firm Modative, sees the compact homes as a chance to inject more homeowners into walkable neighborhoods, who will in turn support more businesses. Their popularity, he said, is evidence of a younger generation that wants to live more efficiently.

“This isn’t your parents’ house,” he says.

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