The way Dan Goodin sees it, there are usually only two choices when someone becomes disabled and can’t live alone anymore—an unwanted and expensive move to an assisted living facility or moving in with relatives, which can strain family relations and often trigger some major home modifications to make workable.

“We have a third option,” says Goodin, vice president of sales and marketing for Nationwide Homes, a modular home builder .

The Martinsville, Va.–based builder has unveiled Care-Cottages, modular home units designed to be an affordable and quick alternative to home renovations. Built to accommodate wheelchairs and other equipment to help disabled residents live independently, the granny flats are designed to sit alone in the backyard or hook onto a home as an addition. They can be custom designed to any size that can be trucked down the road, which means widths from 14 feet to 16 feet in most areas, or if you're in some parts of Texas, simply whatever width will fit on a truck.

The company just unveiled models of the modules at two medical equipment trade shows in Iowa and Atlanta to enthusiastic audiences. “This was a big hit of the show,” said Goodin. “We were told over and over again that not only is this likely to be the least expensive option, but also the most preferred.”

Nationwide is building the cottages in a partnership with The VGM Group, a home medical equipment provider. VGM Group can assess a buyer’s unique accessibility and medical needs and prescribe the environment needed in the home, whether it’s a device that lowers and raises countertops or that helps lift someone from bed to the shower. Nationwide then custom builds the home to accommodate the resident’s needs and décor desires.

The price of the units will vary depending on the size and the interiors and equipment, says Goodin. The 605-square-foot unit the company built for Atlanta’s recent MedTrade show would sell for about $65,000, Goodin said.

He said if all the stars aligned between manufacturing and permitting, a customer could have a custom-designed Care-Cottage installed within six weeks of placing the order. The units can be installed on any type of foundation, slab, piers, or basement. And when it isn’t needed anymore, it can be moved out.

Delivery anywhere in the United States isn't expected to be a problem. "If this goes the way we think it will and becomes popular, we should be able to duplicate it across the country. I think we can get to almost the entire footprint of the continental U.S.," Goodin said.

So far Nationwide has built two of the units, the one for the MedTrade show, and a one custom-designed for Angie Plager, an Iowa woman who had been living in the living room of her mother’s two-story farmhouse since a car accident left her paralyzed from the chest down. That 642-square-foot unit was installed in her mother’s backyard after being shown at the Heartland care conference.

While young people like Plager are seen as potential clients for Care-Cottages, the company expects more potential in the aging baby boomer population, said Goodin. “Our typical clients are people with health or disability issues who need the assistance of family members, but also want to live their own lives and maintain a certain level of independence.”

Teresa Burney is a senior editor for Builder magazine.