Accessory dwelling units (ADUs) have been around for a long time. Fonzie lived in one (above the Cunningham’s garage), but they fell out of favor with local governments. Recently, local governments have warmed up to ADUs, promulgating zoning regulations encouraging them, especially detached units in a backyard or above a garage.
You may have heard ADUs referred to as backyard bungalows, micro homes, retirement cottages, guest houses, mancaves, she-sheds, or mi casita. They are created for many reasons: independent living for relatives (aging parents, 20- somethings), rental income/investment property, home office, studio, etc. These days it could be quarantine quarters.
Local governments like them as one way to address the pressing issue of affordable housing in a way that is sustainable, is a compliment to the neighborhood, and provides more affordable housing. People hardly realize they are there, and when they do, often want one.
ADUs have been approved by the state of California, where affordable housing is a crisis throughout the state.
The tiny house movement has popularized the idea of radical downsizing and the concept that living in a small space has many positives. ADU’s are not tiny houses, as the term is used today. ADUs are something more. Although small, they are a complete living unit with a full kitchen and bathroom, with a comfortable living area suitable for entertaining. They have a foundation and meet all code requirements. ADUs are more expensive than tiny homes, but they can be worth it.
How much do they cost? Pre-designed manufactured (built off-site) units can be less than $200,000, and even less depending on the characteristics of the site and choices made by the owner.
Would you like to know more? A good resource is at www.AccessoryDwellings.org, created by Kol Peterson. Peterson lives in Portland, Oregon (an early adopter of ADUs), has built many himself, and conducts workshops on all aspects of the process.
Locally, a company called Verdant Living sells manufactured ADUs, not ones that are “stick-built” on-site, so if that works for you, you can email them at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. They can refer you to other companies which build ADUs, whether free-standing, over your garage, or in a walk-out basement.
Personally, I have sold homes which have ADUs. Having a rentable unit can make a home more affordable to many buyers.