Accessory Dwellings

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

Lissa & Matt’s ADU: Planning for Our Sons’ Future

Matt and Lissa were building a new home and realized that creating an apartment over the garage was a good opportunity to add extra living space. The ADU could generate rental income and create flexibility as their housing needs changed. For now the ADU serves as a rental, but it could eventually be a home for their special needs son if needed.

January 31, 2014 · 10 Comments

Jill’s ADU: A Home of Her Own

Jill’s little home includes salvaged materials, low-flow fixtures, three salvaged doors, no dryer, solar panels, a ductless heat pump, a Rheem water heater, rain garden, skylights, and Marmoleum floors. She also installed grid-tied solar panels on the ADU which cover electricity for her lights, appliances, and heating.

January 24, 2014 · 2 Comments

Stephen Williams’ ADU: An ADU on the Alley

Stephen has always enjoyed the challenge of making a small space functional and comfortable. He had already built two ADUs, so it made sense that he would build an ADU on his own property when the opportunity arose. In 1998, Stephen purchased a lot in the Foster-Powell neighborhood with an existing house, which had been condemned. He remodeled the 1908 home and rented it out. He then designed an ADU for the back half of the lot, abutting the alley.

January 17, 2014 · 6 Comments

Susan Moray’s ADU: Updating History in Ladd’s

As she worked with Jack, Susan’s primary design consideration became maximizing the size of the ADU while adhering to Historic Neighborhood requirements. Prior to applying for her permits, Susan paid for a design consultation meeting with the city of Portland and Jack brought preliminary sketches to explore various possibilities.

My architect, Jack, did his homework on what could be built, given these limitations and nailed down a design that was accepted on the first try with no changes. That was impressive. We were told by everyone we would never get what he wanted past city permit without going through design review but he did. -Susan Moray

January 10, 2014 · 4 Comments

Scott Powers’ ADU: 3 Generations at Home

As his father’s 80th birthday approached, Scott Powers began considering next steps that would allow his parents to remain in the Rose City Park neighborhood and retain their independence.

December 31, 2013 · 5 Comments

ADU Case Studies Project Launch

In the summer of 2013 Oregon DEQ conducted a survey of Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) owners. We received an excellent response from across the state and have published the ADU … Continue reading

December 28, 2013 · 2 Comments

La Cabina Urbana

Inconspicuous as any other garage, this ADU is an inspiration to me. While it was built as an unpermitted ADU, like 2/3rds to 3/4ths of Portland’s ADUs, it functions like … Continue reading

December 23, 2013 · 2 Comments

Sabin Green – A community of 2 ADUs and 2 modest homes

Back in 2005, I was trying to figure out how to create affordable home ownership opportunities without public subsidies in a strong housing market. With a background in affordable housing … Continue reading

December 23, 2013 · Leave a comment

Kol Peterson’s ADU: A Backyard Home

After living in shared housing for several years, Kol Peterson was ready for a place of his own. As he researched various options, Kol discovered ADUs and learned they could provide the kind of financially sustainable living arrangement he was seeking.

December 20, 2013 · 7 Comments

Renovation loan: a new way to finance ADU construction

Financing your ADU has become easier. I am sure that when someone mentions financing, or budgeting, or anything to do with numbers for a project there is a slight shudder … Continue reading

November 15, 2013 · Leave a comment

ADU owners: take this survey from students at UC Berkeley

Hey folks, if you aren’t familiar with New Avenue Homes, you should be.  They’re a developer/builder that has created dozens of ADUs in the Bay Area, and their CEO Kevin … Continue reading

November 14, 2013 · Leave a comment

Breaking Bad is over. It’s Time to Break Even.

Cooking meth is apparently one way to make money fast. But, for many of us, this option is far less appealing now that we’ve finished watching Breaking Bad. After the … Continue reading

October 21, 2013 · 2 Comments

ADU Survey Report Published

A survey of ADU owners in Portland, Eugene, and Ashland, Oregon is complete and now published.  You can find it at Oregon DEQ’s website and AccessoryDwellings.org.  This mail and web survey … Continue reading

October 4, 2013 · 5 Comments

Free Bike Tour of ADUs in Portland on Saturday

*Editors Note: The Oregonian posted a short article about this tour* If you’re in Portland, consider joining this year’s biking tour of ADUs and tiny houses in Portland, Oregon on … Continue reading

June 26, 2013 · 1 Comment

ADU Survey is underway!

A new survey of ADU owners has been mailed to over 900 ADU owners in Portland, Eugene, and Ashland, Oregon. The purpose of this survey is to better understand how … Continue reading

June 8, 2013 · Leave a comment

Do lax “granny flat” regulations encourage absentee landlords? Some new evidence from Portland.

Imagine, in the abstract, the absentee landlord. I personally see him as a sort of Dickensian villain, say Sir Mulberry Hawk, coarse in intention despite his fine clothing and mustache, … Continue reading

May 29, 2013 · 5 Comments

Discreet Density

Skinny homes on 25’ wide lots.  New apartment buildings without off-street parking.  Bulky 2,500+ sq. ft. ‘traditional craftsman’ homes popping up all over the inner-east side.  These are Portland’s most … Continue reading

May 4, 2013 · 6 Comments

Why Are Permitted ADUs So Rare?

From Washington DC to Vancouver BC to Boston, MA, there are more and more examples in the media of individuals attempting to build and live in smaller dwellings and in … Continue reading

March 30, 2013 · 4 Comments

Zoning Regulations for ADUs in 55 West Coast Cities

Oregon DEQ updated our ADU Zoning matrix recently in collaboration with Sightline Institute’s recent Legalizing Inexpensive Housing series.  Read the whole series – it’s great! A few of the cities stand … Continue reading

March 8, 2013 · 2 Comments

Finally, A Loan Product That Works for Constructing ADUs

In most markets, financing the construction of ADU’s is notoriously difficult. When constructing an ADU, you need to have all the cash upfront to pay a contractor for the cost … Continue reading

January 28, 2013 · 3 Comments

Portland extends waiver of SDCs on Accessory Dwelling Units

Great News! This afternoon, Portland’s City Council voted unanimously to extend the waiver of Systems Development Charges on Accessory Dwelling Units for an additional 3 years. The waiver covers all … Continue reading

December 5, 2012 · 12 Comments

Multigenerational homes: accessory dwelling units by any other name

In the past year or two, major builders have accomplished an interesting slight of hand.  They have recognized the need for houses with ADUs, and started selling them for tidy … Continue reading

November 30, 2012 · 2 Comments

Appraisal Journal on ADUs: they could be worth more than you think

Today the Appraisal Journal publishes a research paper about residential properties with accessory dwelling units (ADUs).  The paper describes an income-based method for appraising properties with ADUs, and concludes that … Continue reading

November 20, 2012 · 9 Comments

So, You Want to Rent an ADU in Portland…

…well, join the club. Detached ADUs are in short supply, and huge demand. The fact that they are in short supply and high demand should serve as a strong indicator … Continue reading

November 15, 2012 · Leave a comment

Videos from the Build Small | Live Large Housing Summit

Here are a few of the videos from the Build Small | Live Large Summit. For more videos and presentations, check out the conference home page. The quality of the … Continue reading

November 8, 2012 · Leave a comment

Build Small | Live Large Housing – The Beginning of Something Small

On Friday, October 26th, we held an incredible event at Portland State University. It was the first summit of its kind, focusing on space efficient housing. The Build Small | … Continue reading

November 1, 2012 · 1 Comment

Build Small / Live Large Housing Summit

When measuring energy use on a per sq ft basis, large homes are often more energy efficient. The problem is that energy is actually used on a per person basis … Continue reading

October 9, 2012 · 4 Comments

Staircases in ADUs

When I was designing my ADU with an architect, the stairs presented the most challenging aspect of the whole design.  Stairs and their associated components (guardrails, handrails, ceiling, stair treads) … Continue reading

September 27, 2012 · Leave a comment

Two Free Tickets for the Build It Green Tour

For fans of ADUs in Portland, tomorrow is a great chance to see some in person. I have two tickets for tomorrow’s Build it Green tour, which will feature 8 … Continue reading

September 21, 2012 · Leave a comment

Why Oregon DEQ loves ADUs

Basic logic tells us that smaller homes use less energy and fewer building materials. How much less? What’s the environmental benefit of small homes? We at the Oregon Department of … Continue reading

September 13, 2012 · 2 Comments

Tiny Dwellings in Portlandia? (video)

The IFC show Portlandia has garned lots of attention in Portland. It even inspired a fan contest in which Portland residents submitted their own ‘Portlandia’ inspired videos. This hilarious video … Continue reading

August 28, 2012 · 2 Comments

Little is Large on Portland’s 2012 Build It Green! Home Tour

The City of Portland’s Build It Green! Home Tour and Info Fair (BIG!) turns eleven this year. BIG! is a self-guided tour of 16 green remodels and new homes around … Continue reading

August 17, 2012 · 2 Comments

A Bike Tour of Accessory Dwelling Units (video)

In June, Portland State University master’s student and Orange Splot intern, Lina Menard, organized a great bike tour of some ADUs in NE Portland. Mark Rainha compiled and edited an … Continue reading

August 2, 2012 · 1 Comment

The many and confusing synonyms for ADUs

A quick note about language here.  One reason people get so confused, and perhaps heated, about accessory dwellings is that language about them is  confused.  The different names conjure up … Continue reading

June 4, 2012 · 9 Comments

The Granger House: Own Two, Rent One

When I biked up to Bob and Julie Granger’s place I was greeted by their ten-year-old grandson, standing sentinel across the street. The young man asked a few questions about … Continue reading

April 22, 2012 · 1 Comment

Refinancing an ADU – a mortgage broker’s perspective

As a mortgage broker in the Portland area for almost 8 years, I’ve learned “the harder I work, the luckier I get” is really true. In this instance hard work … Continue reading

March 13, 2012 · 1 Comment

My tiny house after 5 years: things I would have done differently

I’ve written here about how well my tiny house is working out — I converted my detached 1.5-car garage to a little “accessory dwelling unit” and have mostly rented it … Continue reading

February 27, 2012 · 3 Comments

A Sister-In-Law House

Walt Quade has a knack for figuring out a work-around. The design and construction of his own ADU provided several opportunities to hone this skill. When he and his wife … Continue reading

February 14, 2012 · 3 Comments

Shawn’s Live-Work Accessory Dwelling

Shawn Busse bought a 950 square foot ranch house on a long, skinny lot with the intention of building an accessory dwelling unit behind it. His plan was to live … Continue reading

February 11, 2012 · 1 Comment

Reflections on Six Years in “temporary housing”: a mobile detached bedroom

From 2003 to 2009, I lived in a tiny home on wheels located in Iowa City. I built the home with Jay Shafer, proprietor of Tumbleweed Tiny House Company. The … Continue reading

January 26, 2012 · Leave a comment

A research and action agenda for Accessory Dwelling Units and their advocates

I spent a lot of 2011 learning about Accessory Dwelling Units (also known as in-law units, granny flats, backyard cottages, etc).  Beat that in terms of geekiness!  (Okay, I bow … Continue reading

January 10, 2012 · 8 Comments

New Energy Performance Incentive Available for New ADUs

In a post on my personal ADU blog, I described an awesome building incentive that was made available for my ADU from the Energy Trust of Oregon (ETO). My ADU … Continue reading

January 4, 2012 · 4 Comments

Appraising properties with accessory dwelling units: a preview of new methods and findings

[update Nov. 2012: the paper, including updated results, is out in Appraisal Journal... click here] This year I’ve been working with appraiser Taylor Watkins of problem of appraising properties with … Continue reading

December 21, 2011 · 14 Comments

Documents about ADUs and appraisals

[this material may be somewhat dated, please look for newer posts about appraisals by searching the site -- ed.] Link to Appraisal Journal paper published 2012: Understanding and Appraising Properties … Continue reading

December 18, 2011 · 2 Comments

Notes from a presentation on appraising ADUs

[Kol Peterson attended Martin Brown and Taylor Watkin’s presentation on appraising ADUs and came away with these notes about how appraisal issues affect homeowners. For Martin’s summary of the event, … Continue reading

December 17, 2011 · 1 Comment

Dwelling in the Urban Alleys of DC (Part II)

Part One of this post ended with the restoration movement’s success in fending off an outright ban on existing alley dwellings in Washington DC. In this follow-up, I’d like to … Continue reading

December 11, 2011 · 1 Comment

Dwelling in the Urban Alleys of DC

A book review of Alley Life in Washington Alley Life in Washington is one of my favorite books.  Not just because of the story it tells about the history of … Continue reading

December 5, 2011 · 4 Comments

Portland small home survey

Attention: If you are seeking the Oregon DEQ, Metro, and accessorydwellings.org survey being conducted in June, 2013, please visit http://adusurvey.org/ From garage lofts, to backyard cottages, to yurts, to cute … Continue reading

December 1, 2011 · Leave a comment

Detached Bedroom as Tiny Home

A few years ago I had the opportunity for my mother-in-law to move in with my family in our NE Portland home. We didn’t have space in our home for … Continue reading

November 29, 2011 · 19 Comments

“Understanding and Appraising properties with Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs)” – a free seminar December 16, 2011 in Portland

[EDITOR'S NOTE: this event has already occurred! For a synopsis of results, click here.] (for an emailable PDF of this invitation, click here) A presentation for real estate, building, and … Continue reading

November 21, 2011 · Leave a comment
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