The Many Benefits of an ADU

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What is an Accessory Dwelling Unit?

An ADU (accessory dwelling unit) is essentially a small fully functional residence that is located in the same lot with the primary dwelling. Making use of the housing stock and existing infrastructure, ADUs are environment-friendly and take care of the affordable housing problem. The numbers of cities, counties, and states changing their zoning and housing laws to encourage homeowners to develop ADUs are increasing. 


While local governments and planners use the term accessory dwelling unit or ADU, these dwellings are also known by many different names. Some of the more popular names are alley flat, carriage house, garage apartment, granny pod, guest house, in-law suite, multi-generational house, and ohana unit. 

Why do we need ADUs?
There are many reasons that highlight the necessity of ADUs and its requirement in current times. Some of the more pertinent ones are given below.
An ADU allows the homeowner to create a new fully functional housing space for their loved ones without compromising their privacy and accessibility.
It allows older homeowners to downsize their residence and at the same time bring in a tenant in the primary dwelling, thus creating an additional source of income.
A new ADU can be constructed keeping the requirements of the people who will live there – children, adults or senior citizens.

According to a survey by AARP, the majority of Americans prefer living in neighborhoods that offer a combination of affordable housing, transportation options, close vicinity to schools, shopping, and entertainment centers. This, along with a rapidly aging population and a decrease in households with children is amongst the reasons for the renewed interest in ADUs. 

Both affordable and flexible, ADUs can meet the requirements of all age groups, making them very popular amongst both homeowners and real estate developers. According to the Home and Community Preferences Survey, homeowners in the fifty - plus age bracket would consider creating an ADU for the following reasons:
Create a home for a loved one in need of care and attention.
Provide temporary accommodation for friends or relatives in need.
It creates a feeling of extra security and safety with someone living nearby.
Increases the value of their property
Additional income from renting out either the ADU or the primary dwelling.

Different Types of ADUs
Many different types of ADUs can be created to merge discreetly with all types of communities. Some of the more popular types of ADUs include:
An attached ADU that is connected to the primary residence through construction along the back or side of the house. This sort of ADU is perfect as a granny pod, as it allows both privacy as well as safety for the elderly. Units such as these can either have a shared or separate entrance.
A detached ADU is a unit built away from the primary home but on the same lot. These could be new constructions or converted outbuildings.

Portioning and converting part of the primary home to make it a separate fully functional unit, an internal ADU could consist of an entire floor, the attic or basement. 
Converting an existing attached or detached garage into a residence, a garage ADU can also be constructed by adding a floor above the existing structure.

Advantages of ADUs 
There are numerous advantages in constructing or converting existing structures into ADUs that are beneficial to both homeowners and communities. Given below are a few of the advantages of ADUs.
Affordable housing option – A detached ADU is cheaper than building a new house since there is no additional cost for a new lot. ADUs are generally owned and looked after by homeowners living on the same property. Generally, these ADUs tend to be more expensive in terms of rent than similar-sized apartments. However, in single-family neighborhoods, they are often the most affordable rentals due to the lack of single bedroom housing or studio apartments. 

Housing for all ages – Every person’s housing needs change over time. An ADU can be adapted to deal with these changes in different stages of life. Young people would find them affordable entry-level housing choices. Expanding families would benefit from the extra space provided. ADUs are perfect for helping an elderly loved one to stay close by and yet maintain their privacy. Elderly people with children who have moved away, can shift to an ADU and rent out the primary residence.  
Offering the perfect size – Nearly two - thirds of all households in the United States are one or two-bedroom homes. ADUs are generally between 600 to 1000 square feet and are the perfect size for those looking for such homes. 

Environment-friendly – Requiring fewer resources to construct, convert, and maintain, ADUs also use less energy for cooling and heating. Internal ADUs are the most cost- effective in terms of building and operating costs.

Compatible with the community – Offering smaller, affordable homes in already established communities, ADUs have minimum visual impact and do not add to the area’s sprawl. 

Impact of Laws on ADUs
Regulations and laws regarding ADUs are framed and adopted at the local government level. Homeowners need to follow the regulations in terms of where an ADU can be made, the size in terms of height and square feet, the type of ADU allowed, and the purpose of usage. All these regulations can be found in the local zoning code. 

The last few decades have brought a balance between the number of ADUs built and the strictness of regulations governing ADUs. Los Angeles saw a dramatic rise in ADU permit applications after changes were made to California’s ADU laws. Similarly, after Oregon relaxed its ADU rules, there was a tremendous jump in the number of new ADUs in Portland. 

Many communities are worried about the potential undesirable outcome of ADUs. The best way to overcome this issue is for the community to draft regulations about the type, size, and usage of ADUs. The flexibility in type and usage allows homeowners to build ADUs while remaining within the ambit of local laws and regulations. 

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