The Need for Accessory Dwelling Units
California has witnessed a rising demand for housing production in the last decade due to population growth, mobility of people towards high opportunity and job-rich areas, and the changing social climate brought about by the pandemic. More people are seeking new spaces that are comfortable, affordable, and accessible in relation to their work, family, and social life – things that contribute to the quality of life. At the same time, it is a struggle to meet this rising demand due to limited housing choices, exorbitant rents and the significant rise in building costs.
This dilemma pushed the State of California to diversify the range of housing types and to pass legislation allowing Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) on residential properties. This has effectively doubled the housing potential of residences which can be beneficial both to homeowners and renters.
What is an ADU (Accessory Dwelling Unit)?
The State of California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) defines an ADU (Accessory Dwelling Unit) as an accessory to a primary residence with complete independent living facilities for one or more persons in different variations. ADUs generally have a maximum area of 1200 sq ft. ADUs are built on lots with existing or proposed houses; thus payment for new land is not required to build. ADUs are sometimes referred to as “Granny Flats” or “Mother-in-Law” units since many ADUs were initially built to provide housing for family members.
In the recently updated ADU regulations, the JADU or Junior Accessory Dwelling Unit was added. It is a specific type of conversion of existing space that is contained entirely within an existing or proposed single family residence. The JADU is a smaller version of the ADU, having a maximum area of up to 500 sq ft. Each city and county has a different set of regulations for ADUs and JADUs but the general difference between the two is shown in the table on the right.
ADU vs. JADU table.
TYPES OF ACCESSORY DWELLING UNITS
The unit is separate from the primary structure
The unit is attached to the primary structure
CONVERTED EXISTING SPACE
Available space in the primary residence that is converted into an independent living unit.
ADVANTAGES OF OWNING AN ADU
ADUs allow for a variety of uses as a homeowner’s needs change over time. It can be a home office, a private space for guests, or a spare room for family members, including elderly relatives and those with special needs.
Once completed, ADUs are less costly to operate and maintain per square foot, than the main home. Additionally, rental income can help to supplement mortgage costs or retirement savings. For those looking to optimize a traditional home, it is a great way to take advantage of existing resources, while increasing the efficiency of a property and providing extra income.
INCREASED PROPERTY VALUE
Homeowners will benefit from increased property value. People are willing to pay more for properties with ADUs because of the security that comes with a secondary flexible unit that will meet their future lifestyle and/or financial needs.
Due to ADUs being built on existing properties and its smaller footprint, the cost of an ADU is significantly cheaper than building a new home. Whether it’s for rental or for personal use, ADUs help alleviate the rising demand for housing production in California and offer the community an efficient and cheap living alternative.