Accessory dwelling units (ADUs) in California are “a revolution in progress,” in the words of researchers at the University of California’s Center for Community Innovation. A series of laws enacted over the past five years have systematically eliminated most explicit and implicit legal barriers to ADU construction across the entire state. Using data reported to the California Department of Housing and Community Development, I investigated likely economic and regulatory determinants of ADU growth across California cities.
On April 28th, 2021, Portland’s City Council unanimously passed a new set of regulations that allows for recreational vehicles and tiny houses on wheels to be used as a legal, viable housing option on residential properties in the City of Portland beginning on August 1st, 2021.
Recent legal developments show that we need to do more to ensure that permits are, in fact, being issued and new ADUs can be built.
When we saw this fixer-upper on a half-acre plot of land, I knew right there and then: we were going to buy it. That was back in 2018, and my father started plotting the renovation strategy while exploring the property. One of its best features was the enormous unoccupied front yard, which seemed like a good spot for a second house. We were about to discover the secret world of ADUs and embark on an exciting journey of building one.
As CEO of Backyard ADUs, a company that builds small homes and ADUs, I think about living in small spaces a lot. There are tons of cool and clever 200SF … Continue reading
On August 12th, 2020, the City of Portland finally passed the Residential Infill Project. This was an overhaul of single family residential zoning regulations that was nearly five years in the making. This post will cover the changes that are coming with Residential Infill Project and also tease you with what is to come with Oregon’s House Bill 2001.
In June, 2020, I conducted some voluntary research to determine how many single family residential properties had an inhabited mobile dwelling. The Cully neighborhood consists of 12,595 residents, or 4,685 households. My survey found 65 inhabited mobile dwellings located on residentially zoned lots, which translates to a rate of 0.005/resident.
Prefab dwellings seem like a great way to create ADUs — but they’re not as common as you might think. One Portland resident shows how it can work.
The author is quarantined in his own accessory dwelling unit, during the coronavirus pandemic.
Over the past five years there have been new laws passed in Portland and Oregon targeting the residential rental market. This article will provide context on the passage of these laws, inform ADU owners how the laws affect their properties, and give guidance on how owners can best stay in compliance.
Here’s some notable stuff for those interested in ADU minutiae in the Portland market and beyond. It’s a mashup of information and updates that will be of interest to ADU advocates: ADU Permit Numbers, MLS, Mapping ADUs, SDCs, ADU events in April 2020, Summit videos, oh my.
Two generations of the Whitley family found a solution to both their housing dilemmas when Carrie and Sterling were approved as the first residents of Monterey Bay Habitat for Humanity’s My House My Home program. The big idea behind the innovative My House My Home program is to build ADUs to assist low income senior homeowners who might be vulnerable to housing instability because they are living on a fixed income.
In 1995, Evelyn Brown purchased her property in Seattle, WA and immediately imagined building a second house on it. The property was a through-lot, meaning that it spanned the distance between two streets. Her house, at one end of the property, fronted on one street and her garage, on the other end of the property, fronted the other street. Twenty years later the city caught up with Evelyn’s vision and she now lives in an ADU she has plenty of time to dream about.
A few years ago, Diane Owen was sharing a house in Denver, CO with her daughter Mara, and Mara’s partner Andrew. Diane’s one bedroom, one bathroom multi-generational household also included three dogs, so it was a full house! Diane had been living with Mara and Andrew for three years and they got along really well, but there were moments that a little more wiggle room would be nice.
ADU classes for Portland homeowners- postponed due to Coronavirus- Special offer for Portland Metro locals
Kol Peterson, one of the editors here, hosts a class called “Building An Accessory Dwelling Unit on your property,” on Please visit Kol’s site for more details.
When Scott Drake bought his father Walt’s property in Decatur, GA they struck a deal. They’d build a carriage house for Walt so that he could remain on the property and have Scott and his wife and kids move into Walt’s old house.
ADU Advocates’ Unsanctioned Guidance for Oregon Cities Updating Local ADU Regulations by January, 2020 to Comply with HB 2001 Statute
Two of the most common “poison pills” in ADU standards will be prohibited statewide in Oregon beginning in January, 2020, making earlier ADU legislation significantly more effective.
Oregon House Bill 2001 (HB 2001) was signed into law on August 8th, 2019. While HB 2001 rightly claimed headlines for expanding missing middle housing options, it also included some specific requirements for ADUs.
Natural Gas, or methane has been promoted both as a ‘Clean Fuel’ or a ‘Bridge Fuel’ in various circles, both locally and nationally during this time of climate crisis. Concurrently, the IPCC has called for a far more rapid decline in the use of fossil fuel, more rapid scaling up of renewable energy taking advantage of the falling costs, and avoiding a lock-in of high-carbon infrastructure.
ADU financing could — and perhaps should — be a lot more like commercial real estate financing, only with a human touch. A guest post by Roger A. Gins.
Several significant bills passed through the legislative process in California last week. This legislation that passed in CA is major and will help usher ADUs out of the dark ages.
As reviewed in my first post on this topical thread, significant and progressive legislative and regulatory ADU code overhauls are occuring at quickening pace in jurisdictions up and down the west coast. I’ve been tracking ADU regulatory reform fairly closely for a decade, and there hasn’t ever been a time period where ADUs have been gaining as much national traction as they are now.
Announcing the next Build Small Live Large Summit and the next ADU Academy. November 7th and 8th, 2019. Portland, Oregon.
Two national, back-to-back events on November 7th and 8th in Portland, Oregon
The ADU Tour in June was a blast. Approximately 800 people attended. We’ve made the 17 project profiles public. You can find them here.
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.
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.
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.
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
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!
One provider of ADU financing describes their service.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
New research from Canada finds that ADUs and garden suites can function as voluntary version of affordable housing — with some important caveats.