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Measuring Unpermitted Housing in Our Cities to Inform Sound Policies


The efforts taking place in East Palo Alto to ensure that garage conversions offer safe and stable housing is shedding light on the ways that our neighbors are coping with the housing affordability crisis—conversions of garages into rooms, subdivision of single-family homes to accommodate multiple families, and residents living in motorhomes parked on driveways or backyards. Many of these conversions have been unpermitted, giving rise to informal housing, a growing phenomenon in metropolitan areas in the country. In order to better estimate the number of informal housing units in a jurisdiction with the ultimate goal of informing better planning practices and policies, some scholars have created a way to measure informal housing: