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Minor Residential Units


A Minor Residential Unit is a self-contained, secondary dwelling located on the same site as a primary dwelling unit.

Commonly referred to as granny flats, or guest houses, Minor Residential Units are a local attempt at the Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU's) that feature heavily in parts of the United States as they battle their cost of living and housing affordability issues.

Whilst they have always featured sporadically throughout the countries District Plans they are now better defined in the latest generation of District Plans being published. The idea is to provide some sites with the ability to allow family members to live independently but at a lower cost.

In some planning zones you can build a Minor Residential Unit without Planning Consent or Neighbour approvals.

You must still get a building consent for a Minor Residential Unit though.

In this article, we explore the many benefits of adding a Minor Residential Unit to your site and how to go about achieving it.

Minor Residential Unit Kitchen concept
Minor Residential Units can be small, but efficient


1. Reduced Costs

One of the most obvious benefits is a Minor Residential Unit can reduce your overall housing costs. Sharing rates, property insurance, site maintenance and in house support services mean the cost to live with a Minor Residential Unit can be much lower than compared to a standalone house on a standalone site.

2. Additional Living Space

Having a Minor Residential Unit can provide additional living space. The size of a Minor Residential Units is strictly limited to 50,60 or 70m² depending on your councils rules. But the building can be used for a variety of purposes, such as housing family members or guests. A Minor Residential Unit can be used as a guest house for visiting family and friends, providing them with their own private space while they are in town. It can also be used as a home office, a studio space, or a gym.

3. Increased Property Value

Another benefit of having a Minor Residential Unit is that it can increase the value of the property. In todays modern environment where housing is expensive, board is expensive, and aged care facilities are expensive the demand is quite high for properties set up this way.

You can make your property more attractive to potential buyers, particularly those who are looking for a home with parents, in-laws or students in mind.

4. Flexibility

A Minor Residential Unit provides flexibility for changing circumstances. For example, if you have aging parents who may need care in the future, you can provide them with their own private living space while still allowing you to be nearby.

Similarly, if you have adult children who may need a place to live for a period of time, a separate dwelling can provide them with a comfortable and private living space while they get on their feet.

Additionally, if you work from home or have a hobby that requires extra space, a Minor Residential Unit can provide you with the flexibility to create a dedicated workspace or studio.

Minor Residential Unit - Dining and kitchen combined concept.
Clever duplicate use of space can allow more room in the dwelling for furniture and circulation

5. Multigenerational Living

Multigenerational living has become increasingly popular in recent years, particularly in areas where housing costs are high and support for aging family members is poor.

6. Sustainable Living

A Minor Residential Unit contributes to a sustainable living arrangement through efficient use of land and services connections.

Adding a Minor Residential Unit to your property helps reduce urban sprawl, minimises the need for new infrastructure, and promotes communal pooling of resources. This leads to reduced energy consumption and a smaller carbon footprint.

7. Privacy

Minor Residential Units maintain the privacy for both homeowners and occupants, while living on the same property.

Each household can maintain a sense of independence and separation from one another when necessary but remain close enough for support when required.

This can be particularly beneficial in situations where family members or tenants desire their own space.

8. Community

Including a Minor Residential Unit on your property can contribute to a stronger sense of community. Minor Residential Units can help create more diverse and inclusive neighborhoods by offering more affordable housing options.

They also enable people to live close to their families, friends, or support networks, fostering social connections and community cohesion.

9. Aging in Place

A well designed Minor Residential Unit can facilitate aging in place by providing a suitable living arrangement for seniors who want to remain in their community.

By offering a smaller, more manageable living space, a Minor Residential Unit can help older adults maintain their independence while staying close to their support networks.


It can be tempting to think of a Minor Residential Unit in the context of Rental Income or Short Term Accommodation.

A Minor Residential Unit is often required by the planning rules to be occupied by a member of the same immediate family as a person residing in the main dwelling on the site. If you rent the space to someone not a member of your family, you are subject to requiring additional planning approval, potentially a development contributions levy and increased rates.

By earning rental income from your family member, you may be able to offset some or all of your mortgage payment, rates, and other expenses. This can make homeownership more accessible to those who might not otherwise be able to afford it.

The size limitations of a Minor Residential Unit can mean the space is generally only really big enough for a person living on their own with occasional visitors.

It is possible (and has been done) to apply for a resource consent to allow an oversize Minor Residential Unit enabling a couple to live comfortably. It is much easier to get approval for a family occupant than it is to gain approval for a tenancy situation.


Because the idea is to keep Minor Residential Units small and affordable, a bespoke design can often be a little excessive.

There are many poor-quality plans and relocatable options available. These are often poor value for money as the supply price is not competitive and personalisation to suit your existing house or lifestyle is not possible.

We have a range of very affordable ready to build Minor Residential Unit plans to suit most situations. Try our plans first and see how we balance flexible exterior aesthetics with space, healthy living, convenience, storage and comfort with the size restrictions relevant to your area.


There are many benefits to having a Minor Residential Unit. From providing additional living space to increasing property value, rental income, flexibility, multigenerational living, reduced housing costs, sustainable living, privacy, community, and aging in place, a Minor Residential Unit could be the solution you need at your place.

To find out whether adding a Minor Residential Unit to your property is an option book a call with us today: Meet us | HWA - Architecture

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