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Good Things Come in Small Packages

Updated: May 4, 2021

What is an ADU?

Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs), according to California’s department of Housing and Community Development, are known by many different names: granny flats, in-law units, backyard cottages, secondary units and more. Simply put, ADUs are an, “...innovative, affordable, effective option for adding much-needed housing” (HCD, 2020), especially in areas such as California. It is one of the many solutions that is proposed to increase the supply of affordable housing because they do not require, “... paying for land, major new infrastructure, structured parking, or elevators” (HCD, 2020).

ADUs are meant to help increase the number of smaller livable units within existing neighborhoods. These units may also be attached or detached from the primary, also known as the single-unit residential dwelling unit. An attached ADU can either be contained within the single-unit residential, or share a minimum of one wall whereas, a detached ADU can be defined as a unit that does not share any walls with the primary unit.

What is the significance of ADUs?

The ADU movement will influence zoning and housing codes for single family residences across the United States, and specifically in California where the shortage of housing is severe, in a positive way. It can be used as a new source of income for homeowners, provide more housing where it is needed, allow for extended families to be closer while still retaining privacy, and at a more cost effective rate. ADUs are, “...suited well for couples, small families, friends, young people, and seniors” (HDC, 2020).

Since the movement to utilize ADUs is rising, there are new laws passed that expand their use in California. “As of January 1, 2019, homeowners who created accessory dwelling units (ADUs) without the required building permits may have the opportunity to bring their ADUs into compliance. For ADUs that were constructed without building permits, local building officials now have the option to inspect an ADU and apply the building standards that were in effect at the time the unit was constructed" (HCD, 2020). Most recently passed, “...legislature further updated ADU and JADU law effective January 1, 2020 to clarify and improve various provisions in order to promote the development of ADUs and junior accessory dwelling units (JADUs). These include allowing ADUs and JADUs to be built concurrently with a single-family dwelling, opening areas where ADUs can be created to include all zoning districts that allow single-family and multifamily uses, modifying fees from utilities such as special districts and water corporations, limited exemptions or reductions in impact fees, and reduced parking requirements” (HCD, 2020).

ADUs have the potential to address a plethora of concerns such as: homelessness, homeownership, and even the rental market. In regards to homelessness, it provides the ability to provide living spaces to those in need at a more affordable rate. ADUs allow for the possibility of relying less on shelters and creating spaces for individuals and families without the need to use finite land resources. ADUs are able to address homeownership by allowing for an extra source of income to help pay mortgages and open a door of possibility to those who would not be able to afford their own home otherwise. ADUs would also create less pressure for the rental market because it would allow for the increase of rental spaces and the opportunity for more individuals to be able to afford to rent.

ADUs are one of the key solutions to address the current housing crisis here in the United States. By allowing for an increase of rental and livable spaces, the rental market will have more to offer. The decreased cost of living will benefit homeowners and the homeless alike by providing new sources of income and more availability of housing on the market.

AGD and the ADU movement

AGD has been working to design ADUs for clients over the past year. Our dedication to housing those that need it is part of our Do Good Design mantra. ADUs are not just for your grandparents or in laws anymore. They house college students, aging children, and friends in need. In the fight to provide housing for our state and our communities we live in, we have decided to take the designs we have worked on this past year and create a series of modern and uniquely designed units that can be used to help anyone interested in ADUs to have a starting point. There are many ADU designs out there, and we realize that. AGD believes that if even one of our designs helps a homeowner provide housing then we have an obligation to release these. And they are good looking too!

Written by Ejay Brady



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