The simplest definition of an accessory dwelling unit (ADU) – also known as a “granny flat,” “in-law apartment” or “backyard cottage” – is a secondary independent structure built on the same lot as an existing primary single-family house. An ADU may be built as a detached unit in the backyard, over a garage (where allowed), or as a garage conversion (detached or attached). An existing room within a house may also be converted into a separate unit (this is considered a Jr. ADU) as long as it meets state and/or local regulations.
ADUs range in bedroom size (studios to two bedrooms) and square footage (150-900 SF), depending on the jurisdiction. Units must provide living, sleeping, eating, cooking and sanitation through a partial or full kitchen, shared or separate baths, depending if it’s an ADU or a Jr. ADU and on the jurisdiction’s requirements. ADUs can be used as a rental unit to create a source of additional income. Some jurisdictions require that a homeowner live in one of the units, while others do not.
Several bills passed by the California Legislature that took effect January 2017 – and bills clarifying the law in January 2018 – make it easier for homeowners to build secondary units by relaxing development standards (such as setbacks, parking, height requirements, etc.) and lowering cost of impact fees (e.g. utility fees). Local jurisdictions may choose to relax development standards even further.
ADUs can play a role to alleviate the housing crisis in the greater Bay Area and are considered to be a highly sustainable option as the small footprint can reduce greenhouse gas emissions, reuse existing infrastructure and foster more dense land use.
Housing Trust is pleased to have the opportunity to address issues with the development of ADUs by offering technical and financial assistance as we work to bring more affordable housing to our communities – and we thank JP Morgan Chase and their PRO Neighborhoods initiative for their financial support.
Housing Trust will offer educational workshops to help homeowners navigate the ADU development process that includes design, permitting, contracting, financing, construction and becoming a landlord. We are currently crafting the financial assistance program that will be available for homeowners needing assistance leveraging their assets and/or have a difficult time meeting strict underwriting requirements.
We have launched our program with a focus group in June 2018 and are scheduling at least one large workshop per quarter. We will communicate any updates via this page as well as our mailing list, so please be sure to submit your contact information through our ADU interest list form below.