Accessory Dwellings

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Accessory dwelling units and the coronavirus: can ADUs help?

One of the best things about having an accessory dwelling unit (also known as a casita, granny flat, etc.) as part of your property is its flexibility. Even though ADUs are typically built in the form of a small house or apartment, they can be used in lots of ways.

My own ADU is in the form of a converted detached garage, about 400sf including sleeping loft. It’s has been a long term rental for most of its 10+ years of existence, but as my family’s needs have changed it has also served as a short term rental, an office, and a guest house.

Now, with the coronavirus pandemic upon us, I can add another use to the list: quarantine space.

The living area viewed from the sleeping loft. The couch on the left has a view out the big windows, and the gas fireplace provides for both literal and psychic warmth. [Photo by Martin Brown / Creative Commons]
The kitchen is an important place since I have to cook all my own food. This small curved counter with built-in-dishrack is really efficient! [Photo by Martin Brown, Creative Commons]

My family’s original plan for March and April 2020 called for my mother-in-law to visit from the east coast. The ADU was reserved for her. But as concern grew about the coronavirus, she cancelled her trip. The city started shutting down. Then, a few days ago, I got sick with something.

Statistically, it is very likely I have the regular flu or just a cold. But out of an abundance of caution, I moved out of the “big” house (about 800sf, but populated with a spouse and teenager) and into the ADU. This will be my home and office until my symptoms stop and an appropriate waiting period has been applied. If I have coronavirus, I don’t want to take any chance of infecting anybody else — because that could multiply to hundreds or thousands of infections in the months ahead.

I’m very fortunate to have this place to retreat. It’s nicely done. I can see the leaves emerging and flowers blooming at nearby houses and in the park. I get occasional deliveries of food and supplies on an outside table.

Still, it’s been hard to ignore the tides of dreadful news coming from places like Italy, and the projections of harm unless we in the US take extremely strong actions now. So please folks — act now instead of later.

Is an ADU part of your coronavirus story? If so, tell us how in the comments below.

About Martin John Brown

Martin John Brown is a researcher and consultant on environment and housing. Find out more at

One comment on “Accessory dwelling units and the coronavirus: can ADUs help?

  1. Pingback: Clark Park residents express concern over accessory dwelling unit regulation –

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This entry was posted on March 20, 2020 by in 400-599 SF, Conversion, Detached, Garage, Opinion and tagged , , , .
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