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‘Accessory dwellings’ bring extra money for some homeowners

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DENVER -- When Jennifer Superka and her husband moved into their house in Denver’s Sunnyside neighborhood six years ago, the property included a rundown building at the back of the lot.

“When we had it appraised it appraised at zero," she said. "The guy told us to tear it down and build a garage.”

But they saw beyond the broken windows and dirt floor, and had a vision for the structure.

“Ever since we moved in, we knew we wanted to make it a carriage house," Superka said.

They learned the primary house was built in 1901 by a blacksmith from Sweden and they think the structure was his shop. They hired a contractor, worked with the city Planning and Zoning Department and turned a worthless building into a tiny house.

The city said the Superkas are part of a growing move in Denver to take advantage of a change in the zoning code that allows residents in certain neighborhoods to build what’s called an accessory dwelling unit on their property.

“They are small self-contained units that are adjacent or on the same lot as the primary house," City Planner Kyle Dalton said.

The Superkas' unit it 660 square feet but contains all the comforts of a much larger house. And with today’s tight rental market, they had no trouble finding a renter.

“Instead of apartment living they get to live in their own little house," Superka said.

And she said the rental income all but covers their mortgage.  Also, the building went from zero value to being a real asset.