Accessory Dwellings

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

ADU Legislative Initiatives- History in the Making

The 24-hour period from the afternoon of Sunday, June 29th- afternoon Monday, June 30th, 2019, was an important day for ADUs. 

In the future, urban planners will point to that day as a signature moment for an era of deregulation and liberalization of codes for ADUs. 

Featured · 4 Comments

Free new guide: The ABCs of ADUs

Over the past year, I’ve been working with AARP to research and write “The ABCs of ADUs – A guide to Accessory Dwelling Units – and how they expand options … Continue reading

Featured · 1 Comment

ADU class for Portland homeowners, Saturday, October 5th

Kol Peterson, one of the editors here, is hosting a class called “Building An Accessory Dwelling Unit on your property,” on Saturday, October 5th. Please visit Kol’s site for more … Continue reading

July 15, 2019 · 2 Comments

ADU Development Costs Keep Going Up

I’ve updated an extensive post about ADU development costs here. These updates are based new cost numbers that just came in from the upcoming 2019 ADU Tour in Portland, which serves as a repository of current and active primary source data for cost estimates. It turns out that current primary source data is critical when it comes to talking about the costs of ADUs, because the development cost numbers here keep escalating rapidly.

May 28, 2019 · 8 Comments

2019 is the Year of ADU Financing Innovation

Financing ADUs has remained a major challenge. But, in the future, 2019 will always be thought of as the year of ADU financing innovation. On April 29th, Portland State University convened a meeting in Washington, D.C to help flesh out some of the innovative programs that are being developed to finance ADUs. 

May 16, 2019 · 1 Comment

Seventeen ADUs!

I don’t know what I was thinking.I couldn’t help myself. I kept saying yes; I couldn’t resist. Now, look what I’ve done.Maybe you’re wondering what am I talking about. I’m talking about this year’s ADU Tour, of course!

April 29, 2019 · Leave a comment

New ADU Financing Option with No Monthly Payments

One provider of ADU financing describes their service.

April 22, 2019 · 2 Comments

Announcing Accessory Dwelling Academy and The ADU Tour

On June 21st, 2019, we are running a new professional education event designed for builders, designers, lenders, realtors and appraisers who aspire to up their ADU game and stand out from the competition.

February 11, 2019 · 2 Comments

ADU Permit Trends in Portland in 2017 and 2018

This post details some findings about ADU permit trends in Portland.

First, we’ll start with the big picture. Here’s the latest data on the number of permits issued by the City of Portland for ADUs from 2000-2018. In 2017, 588 permits were issued. In 2018, 660 were issued. This is a total of 1248 ADU permits issued in 2017 and 2018.

January 14, 2019 · 1 Comment

Portland’s next ADU Tour is happening on June 22nd, 2019.

Portland’s next ADU Tour will be on Saturday, June 22nd Save the date!   More tour information will be posted on AccessoryDwellings.org this winter.

October 15, 2018 · 1 Comment

ADU Rental Income Can Be Used to Qualify Borrowers to Purchase on HomeReady Loans

A HomeReady Mortgage is a Fannie Mae, first-time home buyer loan program, with minimum down payment requirements, and some very particular underwriting characteristics. When a borrower is purchasing a single-unit primary residence with a 3% minimum down payment and there is an ADU present, 75% of the potential rents from the ADU can be used to qualify.

July 6, 2018 · 1 Comment

Asmund & Jenny’s ADU

Asmund and Jenny had been considering building an ADU for quite a while and finally decided to take the plunge at the end of 2016. They were drawn by the potential for passive income, the need for more space for their growing family and guests, and they wanted to lock in the SDC fee waiver benefit before its scheduled expiration. They were particularly drawn to the short–term rental model to maintain the most flexibility.

July 3, 2018 · 2 Comments

ADU Legislative Initiatives Abound

SDC Waiver, Residential Infill Project, Oregon and California state legislative updates….

There are significant ADU legislative initiatives underway in California, Porltand, and Oregon at large. Each of these legislative efforts have national signficance.

May 2, 2018 · 5 Comments

St. Paul’s first ADU goes up

Over the course of a recent Saturday afternoon open house, more than 40 neighbors, friends and family stopped in to see a new apartment on Sherburne Avenue in the Hamline-Midway neighborhood and congratulate the owners, Eric and Chrissi Larsen, on its completion. This wasn’t just any apartment — it was the first accessory-dwelling unit to be built under St. Paul’s 2016 accessory-dwelling-unit ordinance.

April 25, 2018 · Leave a comment

Basement/Garage Conversion Open House on Thursday, April 19th

For those of you in Portland, I’m having an open house event this Thursday, April 19th at my recently completed basement/garage conversion ADU from 4-7pm. I hope to see you there.

April 16, 2018 · 1 Comment

Accessory Dwelling Units: A Tale of Two Cities

Guest post by Mark Thieroff from St. Paul, MN

About five years ago, interest in accessory dwelling units had reached a critical mass in Minneapolis and St. Paul. ADUs were seen by proponents as a way to increase housing diversity and flexibility and add density in residential neighborhoods. But Minneapolis and St. Paul ended up taking very different approaches and, consequently, have seen markedly different results.

April 3, 2018 · 1 Comment

Now Collecting ADU Stories from Across America

Calling ADU Owners, Dwellers, Designers, and Builders from across America to share ADU stories for an exciting new project with AARP. The many benefits of ADUs – especially for multigenerational families – have caught the attention of AARP. They’ve commissioned a publication about ADUs, which will feature half a dozen case studies of ADUs with various configurations and uses. If you’re an ADU owner, dweller, designer, builder, or city planner and you believe you can help with this project, we’d love to hear from you! Just send me an email at accessorydwellings@gmail.com by February 28th, letting us know which of the four items above you’d like to assist with and send along a photo!

February 16, 2018 · 1 Comment

Backdoor Revolution- Part V- Why Vancouver, BC has Done a Lot of ADU-Related Things Right

Backdoor Revolution- The Definitive Guide to ADU Development is officially live!

…Vancouver, British Columbia is the North American leader in ADU development.

Among the most notable things that Vancouver has done is allowed both a secondary suite and a laneway home on the same property. Other US cities (Portland, Oregon, and Seattle, Washington) are considering this idea now, but to my knowledge, no US cities allow it yet.

January 23, 2018 · Leave a comment

Backdoor Revolution- Part IV- Top Ten Reasons Why Basement Conversion ADUs and Detached ADUs Are Like Chalk and Cheese

Basement ADUs and detached ADUs are totally different creatures. 

As I began to write my book and researched ADUs of all types, I strongly considered writing a totally separate book about basement ADUs. I ultimately decided to concurrently capture basement ADUs along with other structural forms in the same ADU book.

January 18, 2018 · 4 Comments

Backdoor Revolution- Part III- Why Fostering ADUs is Different than Fostering other Housing Types

One of the reasons that ADUs are especially challenging to foster is that they are generally developed by average homeowners.  No other housing type is commonly developed by non-professional developers.

If you don’t develop housing as a full-time profession, housing development is complicated and challenging. Actually, even if it IS a full-time profession, housing development is complicated and challenging.

January 17, 2018 · 4 Comments

Backdoor Revolution- Part II- Informal ADUs

One significant part of my book research was about informal ADUs. While permitted ADUs are still fairly rare, informal ADU (a.k.a. unpermitted ADUs) are not.

In writing Backdoor Revolution, I discovered that informal ADUs have a lot to teach us. The book is now available for pre-order on Amazon.

January 11, 2018 · 5 Comments

Backdoor Revolution – Part I – Origin

In 2013, I was observing ADU trends in the US by tracking Google News Alerts and reading academic articles….

I’ve spent the last 2.5 years on this book, and I am proud to finally release it to the world on January 23rd, 2018.

January 8, 2018 · 5 Comments

Building an ADU in L.A.- Part II (excerpt)

Between 2003-2016, an average of one hundred permitted ADUs had been developed each year in L.A.. While 100 ADUs a year is something, it’s certainly not a lot of housing for a city with a population of nearly four million people, and 1.4 million housing units. But, 2017 has entirely changed the landscape for ADUs in California at large. And, L.A. has done something that no one expected. 

DRUM ROLL……

October 19, 2017 · 2 Comments

The First National ADU Summit on November 3-5 in Portland

The Build Small Live Large Summit is the first ever national gathering of leaders in ADU policymaking, design and development. ADU industry practicioners across the country will convene to share and showcase emerging best practices regarding the development of this rare housing type. If you are an ADU enterprenuer, designer, builder, policy-maker, or advocate, we hope that you will be able to attend. 

September 26, 2017 · Leave a comment

2017 ADU Tour Wrap-Up

The ADU Tour in Portland on September 9th and 10th was great. 600 people each day attended to see the 12 ADUs featured in NE Portland and the 12 ADUs in SE Portland. 

September 12, 2017 · Leave a comment

Garden Suites in Edmonton: a private investment in the public good

New research from Canada finds that ADUs and garden suites can function as voluntary version of affordable housing — with some important caveats.

September 8, 2017 · 1 Comment

ADU Tour on September 8th-10th

The ADU Tour is just a couple weeks away on September 8-10th. If you are planning to build an ADU, drop whatever else you have planned and clear your schedule for this weekend. This is the largest (and best) ADU Tour in the nation.  

August 24, 2017 · 1 Comment

Nov. 3-5: Build Small LIVE LARGE summit in Portland, OR

The 2017 Build Small Live Large Summit focuses on accessory dwelling unit (ADU) development, and how these small homes built in backyards, attics and basements can offer solutions to steeply … Continue reading

August 16, 2017 · 2 Comments

ADU Tour- Early bird sales end August 19th

Eary bird sales for the ADU Tour end on August 19th. You can buy tickets now.

It’s shaping up to be an awesome event! There’s going to be 12 ADUs featured on Saturday in SE and 12 ADUs on Sunday in SE. For those who are only interested in seeing certain ADU structural types, here is the breakdown by day.

August 3, 2017 · 1 Comment

Building An ADU- a new website for those seeking to build ADUs

BuildinganADU.com is a website geared to homeowners who want to build an ADU on their property, featuring posts and tips that delve into great detail about explaining how much ADUs cost to build using actual costs from recent projects,

July 3, 2017 · Leave a comment

ADU Designer Profile: Propel Studio

As someone who is very interested in urban issues and affordable housing conversations, Lucas Gray of Propel Studio has been familiar with ADUs for a while now and has been engaged with the design and construction of ADUs for around 4 years. Propel’s first ADU project was one of Lucas’ neighbors in NE Portland. Since then they have had a steady stream of new clients.

May 5, 2017 · 1 Comment

Propel Studio ADU Profiles

Three profiles of ADUs created by Propel Studio.

May 5, 2017 · 1 Comment

Announcing the 2017 ADU Tour

We are excited to announce the next ADU Tour. This tour has an awesome line up, chock-full with awesome and diverse ADU types and styles.

It’s going to be a full weekend event with 10+ ADUs in NE Portland featured on Saturday, and a different set of 10+ ADUs in SE Portland on Sunday. None of these ADUs have been featured on previous ADU tours before.

April 24, 2017 · 3 Comments

PCC ADU Design Class May 6-7, 2017

This spring Lina Menard, Coordinator of the ADU Case Studies Project and owner of Niche Consulting, will be teaching Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) Design Course. In this intensive two-day workshop we cover many of the considerations for designing a small space, visit with special guests who have created ADUs, and go through a set of design exercises to help you develop a design of your own.

April 17, 2017 · 1 Comment

The Ascent of ADUs in Portland 

Portland is leading the pack with ADU development nationally. Data provided by the City of Portland shows the rate of ADU permits issued from 2010-2016. In 2016, 615 permits were issued, 20 times the average number of permits issues each year before Portland’s SDC waiver in 2010.

February 27, 2017 · 18 Comments

PCC ADU Design Wraps Up

This past weekend Lina Menard, one of our editors and the coordinator of the ADU Case Studies Project, taught an ADU Design Class through Portland Community College. The fourteen students brought a variety of project ideas, including everything from garage and basement conversions to backyard cottages, additions, and renovation of a workshop.

February 7, 2017 · 3 Comments

Deborah Kelly’s ADU: Mossy Cobbles

This week’s ADU Case Study was written and contributed by Deborah Kelly, the owner of an ADU called Mossy Cobbles. Deborah worked with her son, Justin S. Kelly, who is an architect and engineer, to design the cottage for Deborah’s mother to occupy when she lived in Portland for half the year. It was constructed by the next door neighbor, Tony Kikes with hardscaping by another friend and neighbor, Steve Carruthers. The cottage is now available as a short-term rental.

December 23, 2016 · Leave a comment

Lisa Lonstron’s Other House: A Rooming House

While interviewing more than 60 ADU Homeowners for the ADU Case Studies project, I came across several different ways that people use their ADUs. I heard time and time again that ADUs provide housing flexibility and give their owners additional rental options as their life circumstances change. ADU owners can Rent One, Both, or Neither. But I’d always assumed that when an owner decided to rent out either their house or ADU they’d be renting it to a single household. Then I got to talking to Lisa Lonstron who lives in her basement ADU. Her other house – the one she lived in before she turned her basement into her apartment – is a rooming house.

December 16, 2016 · Leave a comment

Natalie & Justin Strom’s ADU: Two Bathrooms & An Attic

Major design considerations for Natalie and Justin Strom included creating a feeling that their ADU is more like a single family home than an ADU and fitting the ADU into the aesthetic of the traditional neighborhood while bringing in modern elements in the interior. It was also important to Justin and Natalie that the design be flexible enough to allow for multiple use and that they utilize sustainable and energy efficient building materials and techniques.

December 9, 2016 · 2 Comments

Catherine Butler’s ADU: Two Bathrooms, Please

Quick Facts Setting: urban Neighborhood: Rose City Park, Portland, OR Type: stand-alone detached unit (new construction) Use: owner’s residence Square Footage: 800 Year Built: 2015 Owners: Catherine Butler Designer: Dave Spitzer of ADU PDX … Continue reading

November 25, 2016 · Leave a comment

ADUs’ Tiny Relatives

Editor’s note: In a stunning turn of events, Portland has actually just moved ahead with some of the ideas described in the post and video below, temporarily ending enforcement of the habitation of mobile dwellings on residential properties.

November 22, 2016 · Leave a comment

Al & Shannon Elizondo’s ADU: A Houston Carriage House

The key factor that convinced Al and Shannon to build their own garage apartment was increasing their housing flexibility. They built the ADU first with the plan to eventually build a house on the front portion of the lot which would allow them the option of using the ADU as a potential income property. The ADU was constructed in 2013 and the primary dwelling in 2015.

November 18, 2016 · Leave a comment

ADU Designer Profile: PATH Architecture, Inc.

Ben Kaiser’s favorite small space design trick is to use built-in cabinetry and multi-functional furniture. In the Laurelhurst ADU he designed, the bed folds into a couch, the dining table disappears into a wall, the chairs all stack, and storage goes into unused space.

November 4, 2016 · Leave a comment

ADU Design-Builder Profile: Thordarson Construction

Kristian Thordarson, owner of Thordarson Construction, specializes in high-end full-home remodels, but in 2015 he dipped his toes into the ADU world and now he’s excited to jump in. The opportunity presented itself when Keith Pitt and his wife Stephanie Mix approached Kristian about converting their historic garage in the Irvington neighborhood into an ADU for Keith’s mother.

October 28, 2016 · Leave a comment

I’m semi-retiring! (On a personal note…)

I’m semi-retiring as a co-editor and numbers guy at accessorydwellings.org . But the site is alive and well.

October 24, 2016 · Leave a comment

Sharon Nielson, Keith Pitt, & Stephanie Mix’s ADU: A Miniature Mansion

Because Keith & Stephanie’s home is located in an historic district and their garage was considered a contributing structure, they had a few additional design considerations. They were required to go through a Type II Design Review and retain two walls of the existing garage.The guiding principle for this project is to build a miniature Irvington home with all the features.

October 21, 2016 · 2 Comments

Sylvia Allen & Martha Shelley’s ADU: A Home for A Friend

What convinced Sylvia and her wife Martha to create an ADU on their own double lot was the desire to help Marion, an elderly friend who lived in Florida who needed daily assistance. So the three of them agreed that the most practical plan was for Sylvia and Martha to build an attached apartment so that Marion could live with them.

October 14, 2016 · Leave a comment

ADU PDX ADU Profiles

Three profiles of ADUs created by ADU PDX.

October 7, 2016 · 1 Comment

ADU Designer Profile: ADU PDX

After completing his first ADU, Dave was convinced that it was a viable option to create additional housing in Portland neighborhoods, so he built the next one a few years later. Dave has now built more than fifty ADUs in Portland, but he finds that each of them is specific to the lot and the site, so each one needs to properly fit into its context.

October 7, 2016 · 2 Comments

ADU Design-Builder Profile: Rainbow Valley Design & Construction Inc

Rainbow Valley Design & Construction Inc has built five ADUs in Oregon in the past seven years. Here we talk with designer Stephen Williams about the challenges of building ADUs and why we should build them anyhow.

September 30, 2016 · 1 Comment