To the editor:

I just had the joy of helping a friend close on her first house.

Prior to this, the most experience I had with homebuying came from late-night binges of House Hunters on HGTV. On that show, the time between deciding on a home and moving in is covered with the cheerful dinging of a doorbell. If only it were like that in real life! In real life, the weeks between my friend selling her apartment in Lynn and closing on her small house in Salem were fraught with calls from realtors to lawyers to bankers, with last-minute visits with home inspectors and contractors.

In my friend’s case, the logistics of homebuying were complicated by her need for accessibility. My friend uses a wheelchair, and the house she bought -- the house that is consuming her life savings -- is a house she bought without entering, because there is currently no ingress ramp to accommodate her. It was us, her friends, who walked through the house, giving her real-time impressions of counter space and rolling a marble on the floor to determine if the slope was too steep for her to maneuver safely.

Still, so much about the house is perfect for her that it made taking the plunge the right choice. It’s got a large backyard, perfect for building that ramp. It’s in Salem, which was her preferred destination because she loves this city, its restaurants and nightlife and culture, and wants to make it her home for herself and the family she wants to start. And most importantly, it has a large basement, perfect for transforming into an accessory dwelling unit, or ADU.

By building an ADU, my friend has the option to hire a full-time personal care assistant and offer them accommodation. Because my friend’s reason for using her wheelchair is a chronic condition that will get worse, planning for a future where she needs more intensive assistance at home made all the difference in deciding to become a homeowner in the property she chose.

It’s stories like that of my friend that make it clear to me that simplifying and streamlining the process of permitting ADUs is a necessary step for Salem. The ADU option is a game-changer for people with accessibility issues, people who are elderly and wish to age in place, and people who want to create more income streams to cope with rising house prices.

As Salem grows, its needs for housing are likely to continue growing and changing. But with the option of ADUs, Salem homeowners like my friend can adapt to their own changing needs in a way that makes sense for them -- and in a way that can be life-changing for a working person who wants to live where they work, in our exciting, vibrant, and empathetic city.

Sarah Thomas