Accessory Dwellings

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

Follow Up to the September 2016 ADU Tour

The ADU Tour on September 18th, 2016 was an awesome event. 


We sought to make the tour as educational as possible for the 700+ attendees. Following the tour, we received many comments in the feedback, like this one.

Really, I can’t wait to build mine and share it in the future because actually SEEING the space and being able to walk through it enables me to truly envision what I can do. I am so impressed with the creativity people display in terms of use of land, materials, decor, light. It is unbelievably inspiring. I am sure it is a lot of work to do this, but I cannot tell you how important it has bee to give me the courage to move forward with my own plans . THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!!

and this….

“I was thankful to the hosts who were currently living in the ADUs (renters, grandmother) who were willing to share their space and answer questions. It was helpful to get the perspective of what full-time, small-space living is like.”

and this…

“Tremendously helpful resource/experience! The only challenge for us coming from out of state is finding similar info specific to our municipality.”

As far as we can tell, nothing like this ADU tour exists anywhere else. Thus, people who are interested in getting ADUs to take off in their cities, are coming to Portland to learn more about the ADU development process here. This tour had participants from 10 states and 30+ cities.

On that note, this week, the White House release a policy document, called the Housing Development Toolkit, that wades into the traditionally local governmental domain of zoning. 

One of the top policy recommendations of this document pertains to ADUs, so I thought I’d include that section here, for your reading pleasure.

6. Allow accessory dwelling units

Accessory dwelling units can expand the available rental housing stock in areas zoned largely for single-family housing and can address the needs of families pulled between caring for their children and their aging parents, a demographic that has been growing rapidly in recent years. As a result of the recent recession, young adults have achieved financial independence at a slower rate than prior generations. While the number of Americans caring for both an aging parent and a child has increased only marginally, the costs associated with caring for multiple generations has increased significantly as a greater share of parents support their children beyond age 18. Accessory dwelling units offer one solution to this challenge by facilitating intergenerational living arrangements and allowing more seniors to age in place, something that nearly 90% of older Americans desire for themselves and their families. In addressing the temporary needs of families that are stretched thin, accessory dwelling units can create a permanent increase in affordable housing stock. Cities like Portland and Santa Cruz had explicitly encouraged this action, while others like San Diego have called for changes to allow more such units. The State of California moved earlier this month to streamline state regulations to promote construction of accessory dwelling units.

This White House policy document is heavily skewed towards the use of ADUs for multigenerational uses, and aging in place. This is only one of a myriad of substantive uses that ADUs serve in real life. But, it’s great to see national level recognition of the policy objectives that ADUs can help serve (if only cities had reasonable ADU development codes).

Many towns and cities, if not most, effectively ban the possibility of ADU development via their zoning codes. Indeed, the White House correctly introduces its housing policy recommendations as follows,

“Locally-constructed barriers to new housing development include beneficial environmental protections, but also laws plainly designed to exclude multifamily or affordable housing. Local policies acting as barriers to housing supply include land use restrictions that make developable land much more costly than it is inherently, zoning restrictions, off-street parking requirements, arbitrary or antiquated preservation regulations, residential conversion restrictions, and unnecessarily slow permitting processes. The accumulation of these barriers has reduced the ability of many housing markets to respond to growing demand. “

The White House can survey and observe these municipal barriers from on high, but frankly, can’t do much about it. And you, dear non-Portland reader, can probably see these barriers locally in your town if you’ve examined your ADU zoning code. But, your local governmental decision-makers often either don’t understand these barriers, or perhaps don’t care to rock the boat too much.

Needless to say, there’s a lot work to be done everywhere to get better municipal ADU codes adopted, and this is part of what we hope this website will help enable. Reading real life stories about real ADUs, and what they’re actually being used for, and what problems they’re actually solving or not solving, is what is all about.

On that note, we’ve opened up the profiles of the September 2016 ADU Tour hosts here, removing only the addresses and map information, to protect the privacy of the hosts. For those who missed this tour, we’re likely going to hold the next tour in September of 2017. Information about the ADU Tour will posted on the tour website as it becomes available.

About Kol Peterson

Kol is an ADU advocate with a background in environmental planning. Read more here:

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This entry was posted on September 27, 2016 by in Events and tagged .
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