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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!

Print and digital versions are available. 

This is the final post in a series called ‘Backdoor Revolution’, written to summarize some interesing things I learned while writing a new book about ADUs.

 Post  Title
Part I Origin
Part II Informal ADUs
Part III Why Fostering ADUs is Different than Fostering other Housing Types
Part IV Top Ten Reasons Why Basement Conversion ADUs and Detached ADUs Are Like Chalk and Cheese
Part V Why Vancouver, BC has Done a Lot of ADU-Related Things Right

Why Vancouver, BC has Done a Lot of ADU-Related Things Right

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

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

Think home values are especially expensive where you are?

Nope. Not compared to Vancouver, BC.

The average home price in Vancouver is $1,830,956 as of May, 2017.

Understanding how expensive real estate is in Vancouver is key to understanding why Vancouver does what they do.

What compels people to build ADUs on their property in Vancouver?


Vancouverites don’t build ADUs because they’re hip. They build ADUs because normal people can’t afford to pay for a normal mortgage without the additional ‘mortgage helper’ derived from ADU rental income.

Many fans of ADUs consider them as a form of naturally affordable housing for the tenants. Vancouverites think of ADUs in terms of economic survival for all its residents.

What compelled Vancouver to being so forward-thinking in terms of ADU regulations?


Vancouver was, and remains, desperate to create more housing development opportunities. In this extremely magnified housing crisis environment,  two ADUs may seem like a no-brainer. It is now accepted and integrated in the urban planning regime of things that Vancouver must do for citizens and the City alike. 

What compelled the City of Vancouver to be lenient about their tens of thousands of  unpermitted basement suites?


Had it opted to tamp down its tens of thousands of unpermitted secondary suites, tens of thousands of residents would be without housing. 

ADU afficianados can learn a lot from Vancouver, BC.

And you will learn all about what Vancouver did with its ADU program over the years, and why, in Backdoor Revolution. Vancouver, BC is one of four cities profiled in Chapter 10, along with Austin, Texas; Santa Cruz, California; and Portland, Oregon.

Here’s what some advanced review readers have said about Backdoor Revolution:

“Backdoor Revolution” is dense with info, probably more than you’ve ever wanted to know about ADUs. Yet, at the same time, it is very readable and accessible. In fact, the first time I opened it, I sat down on a weekend morning with a cup of coffee, and before I knew it, I was through over 175 pages! If you have interest in this topic, it is an absorbing read.

Peterson painstakingly takes the reader through every phase of the process, from the history of ADUs, to the financial benefits, to sourcing the capital, then through permitting, planning, design, construction, and even rental strategies and tenant relationships. And then, he really gets into the nitty-gritty!

The author has submersed himself in this subject matter for years and the reader benefits from his own extensive experience plus the experiences of many others. Thus, his estimates and timelines and strategies are based on real-world situations. There are no pie-in-the-sky scenarios or hyperbolic promises of the grand world you will experience as an ADU developer and owner. It is all very realistic.

Here’s another.

Having already started down the ADU road I wish I’d been able to read this sooner but very glad to have it going forward. The book details the entire ADU development process from an empty backyard to walking through the door and living the dream. The book is full of information that is both invaluable and often very difficult to find elsewhere as we in the US are still on the very early part of this wave. It would be impossible to put a price on the many pieces of advice that will prevent you making the same mistakes that many ADU builders and developers have had to overcome. If you are planning on building an ADU, in the process or simply ADU or small house curious, don’t hesitate, get this book!

And another:

When I began learning about ADU development Kol’s website was my primary resource, and when I later took his online course I found it comprehensive and thorough. Kol is one of the country’s foremost experts on ADUs, and “Backdoor Revolution” provides an excellent distillation of his years of hands-on experience and research. It offers homeowners and small-scale developers loads of practical advice on design, construction, and financing. For those on the policy side of housing, it brings much of the existing research on ADUs together in one place for the first time. Highly recommended.

About Kol Peterson

Kol is an ADU consultant, advocate and author of Backdoor Revolution: The Definitive Guide to ADU Development. Read more here: and learn about building your own at Email at


This entry was posted on January 23, 2018 by in Uncategorized and tagged .
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