Accessory Dwellings

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

How much do ADUs cost to build?

Some survey results about ADU costs… and some thoughts about why ADU developers aren’t usually real estate “pros.”

June 25, 2014 · 7 Comments

Bob & Jenny Harris’ ADU: A Mother-In-Law Wing

Bob & Jenny Harris had to jump through a lot of hoops to add a wing with a unit for Jenny’s mom, but it’s worked out. The family stays connected, but Jenny’s mom enjoys some independence too.

June 20, 2014 · 1 Comment

Do ADUs actually provide housing?

It may seem odd to ask whether a housing form actually provides housing, but it’s a key premise in civic debates about accessory dwelling units.

June 18, 2014 · 3 Comments

A Practitioner’s Guide to Appraising ADUs

Appraisals for ADUs have always been tricky. Here is a new guide to help appraisers, real estate agents, and finance professionals understand current “best practices” for appraising ADUs.

June 16, 2014 · 1 Comment

Dan Gray’s ADU: A Retreat Above the Garage

Dan Gray was used to living in the mountains with lots of room around, so when he built his Ashland ADU, he put it above the crowd.

June 13, 2014 · Leave a comment

Why ADUs are hard to study, and confuse nearly everyone

ADUs are a really unusual form of development. This post goes over their special qualities, and explains why a lot of “debate” about ADUs is so repetitive.

June 11, 2014 · 11 Comments

Dennis & Stephanie Martin’s SDU: Trading Places with Our Daughter

Dennis & Stephanie Martin’s ADU has helped their extended family stay together through life changes.

June 6, 2014 · 4 Comments

Research and policy about accessory dwelling units: introducing a 13-part series

Which hopes and fears about ADUs are most likely to be true? Explore claims and controversies with new evidence, in this 13-part series, beginning today.

June 4, 2014 · 17 Comments

Follow up on the June 1st ADU Tour

On Sunday, we hosted Build Small, Live Large: Portland’s Accessory Dwelling Unit Tour. Over 500 people signed up for the early bird registration, and by the time 800 people registered five … Continue reading

June 2, 2014 · 1 Comment

Don Golden & Edith Casterline’s ADU: A Front Yard Cottage

Don Golden and his wife Edith Casterline built an ADU an unusually public place: their front yard. The new structure serves three main functions: generating rental income, giving Don the woodshop he wants, and bringing activity back to the street.

May 30, 2014 · 10 Comments

Rex Burkholder & Lydia Rich’s ADU: Own Two, Rent Both

Rex and Lydia owned a house with a garage that was falling apart. They decided that rather than rebuilding “a home for a car,” they would create an ADU in their backyard.

May 23, 2014 · 5 Comments

Attend Portland’s Inaugural Accessory Dwelling Unit Tour

Update 5/28/14: There’s been a huge amount of interest in attending this tour, which is fantastic. Over 800 people have registered to attend. The tour is sold out, but you can add your … Continue reading

May 18, 2014 · 2 Comments

Heidi Rose’s ADU: A Home for My Sister

Heidi Rose first learned about ADUs because she was determined to figure out how she could build a home for her sister. Her twin sister was living in Seattle with her two kids and going through a divorce, so Heidi went to the City of Portland’s permitting office to explore alternative housing options. Heidi discovered that in the city of Portland an accessory dwelling unit up to 800 square feet is allowed by right on a single-family lot in most neighborhoods.

May 15, 2014 · 5 Comments

Repost of Little Pink Houses: Debate Regarding Zoning Laws and Accessory Dwelling Units Getting More and More Relevant

We thought this National Law Review article was interesting because it deals with the legal issues that ADUs confront in municipalities around the US. You can read more about how … Continue reading

May 12, 2014 · Leave a comment

Tom Hudson’s ADU: A Sneak Peek at an ADU Under Construction

Tom Hudson broke ground on his backyard cottage in March 2014. The concrete slab is finished and the underground plumbing has been stubbed out for connection once the framing is complete. Tom anticipates that his wee home will be move-in-ready by the end of 2014. Meanwhile, his under-construction ADU will be included on the ADU Tour on June 1 so that people interested in creating an ADU on their own property can see one in progress.

May 9, 2014 · 1 Comment

Paz Pozarycki’s ADU: Taking It Down a Notch

Paz and his business partner, Katharina Grad Steinmeyer, have recently completed three UDUs (a twist on the ADU acronym which stands for Urban Dwelling Unit). Their new design firm UDU Design LLC has been inspired by the small housing movement and the need for aging-in-place design.

May 2, 2014 · Leave a comment

Stradivarius violins and cigar box guitars (Making sense of ADU construction costs)

An experienced developer explains why ADUs have such a wide range of costs, and how to estimate costs for your own project.

May 1, 2014 · 4 Comments

Caleb & Tori Bruce’s ADU: Existing Home Becomes Secondary Dwelling

As a builder, contractor, and cabinet maker, Caleb Bruce builds boxes for a living, but he has also developed a knack for out-of-the-box thinking. Here’s the story of how Caleb turned an existing house into a secondary dwelling (or an accessory dwelling as we call them in Portland, OR).

April 25, 2014 · Leave a comment

Stephanie & Sam Dyer’s ADU: A Guest Cottage Off Mississippi Ave

Although their parents would have “first dibs,” the couple realized that they could also rent out the space through VRBO when neither set of parents were in town. Stephanie and Sam were interested in this additional income potential and both sets of parents liked the investment potential of the property.

April 18, 2014 · 4 Comments

Garage Sweet Home

7 years ago we were living in a 5+ bedroom house with garage, attic and basement- all packed to the gills. We couldn’t imagine ever living anywhere else…. but somewhere along the lines our ideals started shifting.

April 11, 2014 · 8 Comments

Joe Wachunas & Naomi Cole’s ADU: Reworking the Garage

“I was surprised how easy it is to increase density on a single-family lot and still feel like there’s plenty of space,” says Naomi. “The entire process was one of the most gratifying experiences I’ve had.”

April 4, 2014 · 3 Comments

Derin & Andra William’s ADU: An Energy-Efficient Basement Apartment

Derin and Andra realized that if they were going to a do a full basement remodel, including a full seismic upgrade and new bedrooms, a bathroom, and recreation space, it would make sense to add a kitchen as well to create a fully self-contained unit. As they researched ADUs they were convinced to create one in their basement because it would create housing flexibility, enable them to have family close by, create community, and provide income potential.

March 28, 2014 · 11 Comments

Lesa Dixon-Gray’s ADU: Putting Mom in a Home, Sweet Home

Lesa Dixon-Gray stumbled across ADUs as she was researching multigenerational housing options for herself and her aging mother. Lesa’s mom, Shirley, was having a difficult time deciding where she wanted to live, but knew she didn’t want to live in the same house as her children. Lesa realized she might be able to entice her mother to move to Portland by giving her a place of her own. As Lesa began searching for duplexes, she discovered ADUs and accessory structures.

March 21, 2014 · 2 Comments

Heard rumors about an ADU Tour?

Well, they’re true. On Sunday, June 1st, in partnership with the City of Portland, Metro, and the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, Caravan- The Tiny House Hotel, is running Portland’s … Continue reading

March 16, 2014 · Leave a comment

Carolyn Matthews & Bruce Nelson’s ADU: Granny’s Garden Cottage

Bruce and Carolyn were interested in universal design elements that would enable them to age-in-place. Their design includes a wide hallway, a roll-in shower, and a countertop with a top that raises and lowers to accommodate wheelchair users.

March 14, 2014 · 5 Comments

City of Portland ADU Permit Trends

The City of Portland continues to grow its ADU housing stock.  In 2013, there were almost 200 ADU permit applications received, which is about 25% of all single-dwelling permits in Portland.  … Continue reading

March 12, 2014 · 3 Comments

John Baker’s ADU: Renting the Basement for 37 Years

John used a home equity line of credit (HELOC) and credit cards to turn his basement apartment into a permitted ADU. His primary design consideration was that he wanted the apartment to be a fully self-contained residence.

March 7, 2014 · 2 Comments

Are Tiny Houses and ADUs the same thing? Not always, but they’re really good friends

Boy, you know it’s been a great day for the website when Carpet Carl tweet-checks it! A few days ago, a post about ADUs by Michael Andersen on got … Continue reading

March 1, 2014 · 6 Comments

Martha Metzger’s ADU: Rent Now, Move in Someday

Although they initially conceived of the ADU as a rental property, Martha soon decided it was the sort of place she might like to live someday, so they designed the small home accordingly. They were committed to incorporating green building components, including well-insulated walls, Energy Star appliances, on-demand hot water, radiant heat, and plumbing for a grey water option.

February 28, 2014 · 3 Comments

Michael Klepinger’s ADU: Ellen’s Garden Cottage

When Ellen’s new university professorship required relocation to Virginia, they had to make big decisions about their SE Portland property. They knew they wanted to ultimately return to their home in Portland and for the time-being they planned to return during academic breaks. It didn’t make sense to leave their beloved home vacant while they were gone. However, if they leased their property they would have no place to call home when they returned to Portland for the holidays. A little ADU solved the problem.

February 21, 2014 · 4 Comments

Jeff McCaffrey & Beth Bonness’s ADU: Hawthorne Guesthouse

Jeff and Beth knew there was demand for accommodations in this desirable area, since they built a duplex next door in 2004. But the idea of a guesthouse didn’t come to them until they were halfway through the project.

February 14, 2014 · 3 Comments

Wally & Lara Jones’ ADU: Keeping Good Neighbors

When Wally and Lara decided to get married, start a family, and start their own business, they decided they wanted a space of their own. However, they didn’t want their friends to have to have to move out, so Wally and Lara decided to convert the basement into a separate affordable living space.

February 7, 2014 · 9 Comments

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 · 11 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 · 6 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 · 6 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  This mail and web survey … Continue reading

October 4, 2013 · 6 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 · 8 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