Accessory Dwellings

A one-stop source about accessory dwelling units, multigenerational homes, laneway houses, ADUs, granny flats, in-law units…

The Death of Detached ADUs in Portland and What To Do About (Part III)

Commissioner Loretta Smith from Multnomah County, District 2 stepped up last week as the first of Multnomah County Commissioners to speak out against the unfair tax re-MAV issue that has been … Continue reading

Featured · 36 Comments

The Accessory Structures Zoning Code Update- The Vote

What seemed to be a ‘slam-dunk’ set of great, proposed code updates for detached ADUs and other accessory structures have experienced yet another potential setback, so to speak. The day before the vote … Continue reading

Featured · 5 Comments

The Death of Detached ADUs in Portland and What To Do About It (Part II)

This is part II of an evolving issue that I covered in the original post, The Death of Detached ADUs in Portland and What To Do About It. (Part I … Continue reading

November 2, 2015 · 31 Comments

ADU class for Portland homeowners, Saturday, January 9th

Kol Peterson, one of the editors here, is hosting a class called “Building An Accessory Dwelling Unit on your property,” on Saturday, January 9th. Please visit Kol’s site for more details.

October 30, 2015 · 1 Comment

Preview of Some of the ADUs Featured on the Fall, 2015 ADU Tour

The City-wide ADU Tour is just two weeks away.The ADUs on this tour are beautiful and we can’t wait for you see them in person. Here’s a preview of some of the ADUs you’ll be seeing.

October 25, 2015 · 1 Comment

The Death of Detached ADUs in Portland and What To Do About It

(Update: 11/23/15– Part II and Part III to this post are posted) This post is complicated, thick, and heavy – it’s about property taxes. Ick! For the purposes of retaining readers’ interest, … Continue reading

October 22, 2015 · 117 Comments

Fall 2015 ADU Tour Information

Registration for the November 7th ADU Tour is now live; early bird sales end on October 24th. For those seeking design inspiration for small houses, the ADUs on this upcoming tour are exceptionally beautiful. Here’s a sneak preview of a few of some of them.

September 17, 2015 · 4 Comments

Alan Durning Keynote Speaker at the Fall Build Small Live Large Summit

Conference is Sold Out!  Alan Durning, a long-time sustainability leader in the Northwest, is newly fired up—and for good reason. Since founding Sightline Institute in 1993, he has written more … Continue reading

August 21, 2015 · Leave a comment

Berkeley ADUs and Perceptions of Density

by Alberto Benejam, Based on a report by Sonia-Lynn Abenojar, Alberto Benejam, and Tamar Nativ Throughout the past year, the city of Berkeley, CA has been considering changes to the city’s … Continue reading

August 3, 2015

Accessory Structures Zoning Code Amendments – An Overview and Assessment

Introduction The City of Portland (Bureau of Planning and Sustainability) regularly reviews and updates planning and zoning codes through a process called RICAP (Regulatory Improvement Code Amendment Project). Part of … Continue reading

July 27, 2015 · 6 Comments

Lay Explanation of Conventional ADU Financing Options

Financing is, by far, the biggest barrier for most homeowners seeking to build an ADU on their property. Recently, I was trying to gain some clarification about three conventional loan products that can be used to help fund the construction of an ADU: First Mortgage Cash Out Refinance- taking out extra money when refinancing your ‘first mortgage’ .

June 27, 2015 · 3 Comments

Follow up to the Spring, 2015 ADU Tour

The spring, 2015 ADU Tour was amazing! Here’s a few snapshots that will provide a sense of what the event was like.

On Friday evening, 349 people attended a 3-hour ADU 101 workshop.

June 2, 2015 · Leave a comment

Save the Date for the 2015 Build Small Live Large Summit: Friday, Nov. 6!

Conference is Sold Out!  The Build Small Live Large Summit is back by popular demand! This unique, one-day event will convene leading small home designers, builders, developers, realtors and policy … Continue reading

June 1, 2015 · 1 Comment

Real estate rage in Portland! Or, ode on a purple shed

Up for rent in Portland, February 2015: a tiny purple structure in someone’s backyard, apparently a converted garden shed. At 165 square feet, it had the same area of 5 … Continue reading

May 27, 2015 · 10 Comments

Joan Grimm & Rita Haberman’s ADU: Carving-Out a Studio

Joan and Rita’s carve-out ADU entailed creating a new entry on the north side of their house, and separating the ADU from the main house by building a wall in the former hallway leading to an existing full bath and the underutilized bedroom. The kitchen-dining-living area is the located in the front of the original house with a large bank of windows offering natural daylight and garden views, and the more private bed and bath areas are located toward the back.

May 25, 2015 · 1 Comment

Spring, 2015 ADU Tour – Final Week Updates

*Update as of 6/3/2015. Read a follow up post about the tour here:*

May 24, 2015 · 2 Comments

John & Stephani Hayden: An Expertly Executed Basement Conversion

John and his wife Stephani decided to use their savings to purchase a house with potential for a basement ADU. This investment would provide flexibility in terms of both their finances and their housing options.

May 22, 2015 · 8 Comments

Bob & Adrienne Stacey’s Future ADU: Well-Planned Beforehand

Adrienne and Bob developed a creative multi-generational housing solution that will allow them to share space with their daughter, son-in-law, and grandkids, while operating a home-based business. They knew they couldn’t have an official fully self-contained accessory dwelling unit as long as Adrienne is operating her pottery studio. However, when Adrienne retires from teaching, the plan is to renovate the addition to make it officially an ADU by adding a kitchen. In the meantime, they knew that as long as they were sharing the house with their family members, it would be no problem to have the addition dependent upon the kitchen in the primary dwelling.

May 21, 2015 · 1 Comment

Updates for the Spring, 2015, ADU Tour

The city-wide ADU tour is almost here. There will be 12 ADUs to tour in NE Portland on Saturday, May 30th, and 13 ADUs in Portland SE on Sunday.

The inaugural ADU Tour in the spring of 2014 sold out a week early at 850 tickets, and drew attendees from across the country, showing the surging interest in small housing.

April 1, 2015 · 5 Comments

Nan Haemer’s ADU: Crepe Myrtle Cottage

Nan Haemer’s neighbor convinced her to build an ADU on her property and she spent the next several months salvaging materials at the nearby ReBuilding Center.

February 4, 2015 · 9 Comments

Regan Gray & George Okulitch’s ADU: A Super-Efficient ADU

Regan Gray and her husband George Okulitch were looking for a way to increase the value of their rental property and landed on building an ADU on the alley in the backyard. Regan likes that with the ADU they created more housing without changing the look and character of the neighborhood.

January 21, 2015 · 1 Comment

Amanda Punton & Das Chapin’s ADU: Starting in the ADU

Quick Facts Setting: urban Neighborhood: Buckman, Portland, OR Type: daylight walk-out basement Use: long-term rental Square Footage: 700 Year Built: 1899 Year Basement Converted to ADU: 2013 Owners: Amanda Punton Designer-Builder: Das Chapin & Amanda … Continue reading

January 7, 2015 · 1 Comment

Ten ADU Aspirations for 2015. Let the countdown begin!

As we all know, New Years is a time to conjure up lofty ideas.  Here are a few great ideas that we, the editors of, probably won’t have the time to … Continue reading

December 31, 2014 · Leave a comment

SAVE THE DATE—Portland’s 2nd Annual Accessory Dwelling Unit Tour – Spring, 2015

SAVE THE DATE: May 29th- May 31st!

I’m very excited to announce Build Small, Live Large: Portland’s Accessory Dwelling Unit Tour – Spring, 2015.

December 23, 2014 · 4 Comments

Billy Hines’ ADU: Modernizing the Carriage House

The first time Billy Hines saw his three bedroom house in Portland’s Alberta Arts District, he decided that someday he’d make the old carriage house into an apartment. In 2006 he went through the process of converting the existing accessory structure into a permitted ADU.

December 17, 2014 · 5 Comments

Innovative “Junior” accessory dwelling unit Zoning Ordinance Passed in Novato, California

Novato, California will allow a simpler, lower-cost style of accessory dwelling unit starting in 2015 — the JADU or “junior accessory dwelling unit.”

December 14, 2014 · 1 Comment

Blake Clark & Sabina Chen’s ADU: A Basement Remodel

Blake and Sabina’s decided to convert their basement into an ADU in case their family members wanted to move in. But with an out-of-state job offer on the table, they ended up remodeling both the house and the ADU to be rentals.

November 30, 2014 · 4 Comments

Model Code for Accessory Dwelling Units

Practically every week, we learn of a new US city or county that is adopting or revisiting zoning code language on accessory dwelling units (ADUs). Some are thinking of allowing … Continue reading

November 25, 2014 · 10 Comments

Garage apartments in Houston

Houston, Texas has a long tradition of accessory dwelling units. It also has a unique lack of zoning rules. Could it be the next hotbed of ADU creativity?

November 19, 2014 · 1 Comment

Guide to financing an accessory dwelling unit

Here is nicely formatted summary to the ways ADUs are being financed in Portland today. Even if you don’t live in the area, it should provide some ideas and precedents you can use. Enjoy!

November 3, 2014 · 4 Comments

Kristy Lakin’s ADU Community: Woodstock Gardens

There are a handful of developers who are using ADUs as part of their toolkit to create unique housing options. Kristy Lakin is one of these developers. She is currently constructing Woodstock Gardents, a pocket community with three primary dwellings, each with its own ADU. Kristy explains that her interest in developing small housing options like these comes from an interest in creating additional housing without compromising neighborhood character.

October 22, 2014 · 13 Comments

ADUs and Condos: Separating Ownership

Q. How is it that the accessory dwelling unit pictured below is being sold separately from the primary home on the same lot? A. It’s legally structured as a condominium. … Continue reading

October 7, 2014 · 7 Comments

Isabel Johnson & Brad Creel’s ADU: A Backyard Guest Room

She anticipated that once it was complete, the backyard cottage would serve as a guest space for visiting family. However, she decided to go through the process of converting the garage to an ADU officially so that she could keep her options open. She liked the flexibility of being able to rent out the little space.

September 24, 2014 · 5 Comments

New ADU Class for Realtors

Following on the heels of the Value it Green tour in early September, Earth Advantage will be offering a new class called All About ADUs – A Primer Course for Brokers. … Continue reading

September 19, 2014 · Leave a comment

Summing up ADU research: are accessory dwelling units as great, or as horrible, as people say?

Collected research about accessory dwelling units (AKA granny flats, laneway houses, in-law units, etc) suggests they have many potential benefits, and two common arguments “against” are unsupported.

September 17, 2014 · 5 Comments

James Michelinie & Kyra Routon’s ADU: A Starter Home

James Michelinie & Kyra Routon first learned about ADUs when they were house hunting as newlyweds. They’d been renting a house in the Alberta Arts District for the past two years and they were looking for a property they could afford in a neighborhood they loved. They ended up purchasing the house they were renting and building an ADU in the backyard, which they now live in.

September 10, 2014 · 6 Comments

Accessory dwelling units: what further research should be done?

ADUs are especially promising as environmentally sensitive and affordable housing, and this potential should be investigated in detail.

September 3, 2014 · 4 Comments

Value it Green Tour Features ADUs

  Join other REALTORs, appraisers and lenders visiting green homes and ADUs across Portland. Have fun with your peers while you’re escorted by experts on buses to and from the … Continue reading

September 3, 2014 · Leave a comment

Kathleen Pequeño’s ADU: La Casita & La Casota

The old woodshop on Kathleen Pequeño’s property had “a sense of being useful.” It took a lot of work, but she turned it into a nice small house.

August 22, 2014 · 1 Comment

What are the barriers to ADU development?

Government rules strongly limit the development of ADUs, but they are not the only factor.

August 21, 2014 · 7 Comments

Francie & Michael Royce’s ADU: A Retirement Plan

Francie and Michael had three primary design criteria for their ADU. First, it had to be easy to maintain. Second, it had to be sustainable – both financially and environmentally. Finally, it had to be a pleasant space to call home.

August 15, 2014 · Leave a comment

ADU Tour, Spring 2015

We wanted to update readers about the plan for the next ADU Tour. The last ADU tour was a trememdous success, so we’ve decided to run it again next spring. … Continue reading

August 9, 2014 · 3 Comments

Do ADUs provide affordable housing?

If the “grassroots” nature of their development is properly understood, ADUs have a lot of potential to address affordable housing needs.

August 7, 2014 · 11 Comments

Katharine Lawrence & Charlie Weiss’ ADU: Third Time’s a Charmer

The economics of a rentable space were appealing to Charlie and his partner Katharine, so when the couple built their own home they designed it to include an apartment. They’ve now included ADUs in two more homes they’ve built and they’re grateful that Portland’s policies now support the creation of ADUs.

August 1, 2014 · 2 Comments

How do ADUs contribute to the local economy? (Or, will building an ADU raise my property taxes?)

Will building an ADU raise your property taxes? Very likely yes. Is that a good thing for the community?

July 30, 2014 · 4 Comments

Robert Albano’s ADU: 2 Units for Aging-In-Place

Accessibility, sociability, rentability, and sustainability were driving factors for their design. The focus of the design was aging-in-place for both dwellings. A secondary goal was energy-efficiency so that the dwellings would be less expensive to heat and cool. They insulated the units with R-40 walls and an R-60 roof. Tight air sealing was also important and they ultimately achieved 2.2 Air Changes per Hour (ACH).

July 25, 2014 · 1 Comment

Do accessory dwelling units serve older persons? (Or, who lives in, and owns, ADUs?)

Older persons are expected to benefit from ADUs. Is this happening now, and will it happen more in the future?

July 23, 2014 · 3 Comments

Jane Doe’s ADU: A Second Home on a Tight Budget

Jane says her greatest inspiration was to have a flexible place which she could live in herself or rent out to family or tenants. In order to fund construction of the ADU, Jane refinanced her car, sold stock, worked, and scraped money together.

July 18, 2014 · 2 Comments

Do ADUs cause neighborhood parking problems?

The single biggest and most specific fear mentioned by ADU opponents is loss of street parking. Is there any evidence on this?

July 16, 2014 · 6 Comments

Repost of Housing Solution: Backyard Cottages Could Add One-Third More Homes to San Francisco

Many cities may claim to allow ADUs in their code, but in fact, their regulations prevent citizens from actually building them. In San Francisco’s case, there are ‘discretionary reviews’ and other … Continue reading

July 14, 2014 · 1 Comment