Accessory Dwellings

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

Portland extends System Development Charge waiver on ADUs by 2 years

Portland’s City Council just extended the waiver of systems development charges on accessory dwelling units for 2 additional years.  Here’s a link to the exact language of the ordinance.  After … Continue reading

April 13, 2016 · 4 Comments

Portland extends waiver of SDCs on Accessory Dwelling Units

(Editors note- for the most recent SDC waiver information, read this post. 4/2016)  Great News! This afternoon, Portland’s City Council voted unanimously to extend the waiver of Systems Development Charges … Continue reading

December 5, 2012 · 25 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

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

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

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

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 · 6 Comments

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 · Leave a comment

ADU Designer Profile: Holah Design + Architecture

For Greg and Libby Holah, the same challenge of maximizing a small space is also the highlight of designing an ADU: “The best part is taking the footprint we’re given and maximizing it so it doesn’t feel like a small space. We like challenging the perspective of what can be achieved in 800 square feet.” –Greg Holah

September 16, 2016 · 1 Comment

ADU Builder Profile: RS Wallace Construction Co.

Although he’d built many practical ADUs over the nearly forty years he’s been doing remodels, his first permitted ADU was inspired by a friend. Joan asked him to help her convert an under-used bedroom and bathroom into a studio apartment. He got such great feedback he decided to create an ADU of his own.

September 2, 2016 · Leave a comment

Victor & Kendra Duong’s ADU: Doubling Rental Opportunities

Editor’s note: this ADU is featured on the upcoming ADU Tour

Kendra and Victor Duong, a wife and husband architecture team, have always dreamed of one day designing their own ADU. In 2015 they built an ADU in the backyard of their existing rental property.

August 12, 2016 · 4 Comments

September 2016 ADU Tour Page

These were the ADUs that were featured on the September, 2016 ADU Tour page.  Read about the ADU Tour, and view ADUs featured on previous ADU Tours here. Quick links … Continue reading

ADU Designer Profile: Ground Up Design Works

Willie’s first ADU was Tom Hudson’s ADU. It wasn’t hard for Willie to decide that ADUs were worth continuing to offer as one of his services.

June 10, 2016 · 1 Comment

Stew & Lisa Hulick’s ADU: Thinking Outside (& Inside) the Box

Lisa and Stew Hulick live in the primary dwelling and they currently rent their ADU out as a short-term rental, which wasn’t their original plan. While they were designing their ADU they anticipated that it would be a long-term rental.

June 3, 2016 · 3 Comments

ADU Design-Builder Profile: Shelter Solutions LLC

Joe Robertson, owner of Shelter Solutions, has been building ADUs in Portland for nearly 2 decades. Approximately 80% of Shelter Solutions work is design-build, but they do also build for clients who come to them with a design. When a client contracts with Joe for a design after the initial consultation, they start out by enlisting Shelter Solutions to compile a Feasibility Study for a fee of $1500.

May 20, 2016 · Leave a comment

The Second Coming of Detached ADUs in Portland

Readers of this series may have noticed a positive tone change in the dire title of the series. That’s because yesterday, the Oregon Department of Revenue issued a draft rule that steers Multnomah County away from the misguided interpretation that they’d used this year–the interpretation that had caused detached ADUs to trigger a property reassessment– the interpretation which has caused a dramatic ADU development chilling effect in Portland in the last 6 months.

April 27, 2016 · 11 Comments

Lisa Lonstron’s ADU: An Artistic Basement Apartment

Lisa took out a home equity line of credit to fund her basement ADU and supplemented it with a portion of each month’s income from her employment. However, many of the finishing touches were a labor of love. Lisa’s key design consideration was staying on budget while using creative design and décor to make it interesting.

April 22, 2016 · 5 Comments

Rambo Halpern’s ADU: An New Old-Fashioned Carriage House

Editor’s note: this ADU is featured on the upcoming ADU Tour…. As he began designing his old-fashioned new home, Rambo kept a few key design criteria in mind for his carriage house. He knew he wanted it to be detached, to have good sound separation from the garage, and to mimic the architecture of the house.

April 1, 2016 · 1 Comment

How Portland Became ADU-Friendly (And How Your City Can, Too)

Portland is probably America’s most ADU-friendly city. Portland has eliminated many of the Barriers to ADU Development in two big ways: by relaxing regulation and by offering generous financial incentives.

March 4, 2016 · 7 Comments

ADU Builder Profile: Hammer & Hand

Sam Hagerman is one of the owners of Hammer & Hand, a construction and remodeling company with locations in Portland, OR and Seattle, WA. As one of the early promoters of the ADU concept in Portland, Sam worked hard to bring it to fruition and he and his company now help their clients create energy-efficient ADUs.

January 15, 2016 · 4 Comments

Tangible Ways You Can Support Space-Efficient Housing

At the Build Small, Live Large Summit on Friday, November 6th, the five panelists in the Space-Efficient Housing Policy Round Table and left the audience with tangible ways they could support space-efficient housing. A member of the audience asked us to make the list available online and we thought that was a great idea, so we’ve obliged. Read on and pick an action item to help us promote small housing choices!

December 11, 2015 · 4 Comments

The Accessory Structures Zoning Code Update- The Vote

What seemed to be a ‘slam-dunk’ set of great, proposed code updates for detached ADUs and other accessory structures have experienced yet another potential setback, so to speak. The day before the vote … Continue reading

November 18, 2015 · 6 Comments

The Death of Detached ADUs in Portland and What To Do About (Part II)

(This is Part II of The Death of Detached ADUs in Portland and What To Do About It. Part I, Part III, Part IV, and Part V are also available.) Action Items … Continue reading

November 2, 2015 · 45 Comments

The Death of Detached ADUs in Portland and What To Do About It

(Update: Part II , Part III , Part IV and Part V are also available.) This post is complicated, thick, and heavy – it’s about property taxes. Ick! For the purposes of retaining readers’ interest, I … Continue reading

October 22, 2015 · 123 Comments

Fall 2015 ADU Tour Information

Registration for the November 7th ADU Tour is now live; early bird sales end on October 24th. For those seeking design inspiration for small houses, the ADUs on this upcoming tour are exceptionally beautiful. Here’s a sneak preview of a few of some of them.

September 17, 2015 · 6 Comments

Accessory Structures Zoning Code Amendments – An Overview and Assessment

Introduction The City of Portland (Bureau of Planning and Sustainability) regularly reviews and updates planning and zoning codes through a process called RICAP (Regulatory Improvement Code Amendment Project). Part of … Continue reading

July 27, 2015 · 12 Comments

Follow up to the Spring, 2015 ADU Tour

The spring, 2015 ADU Tour was amazing! Here’s a few snapshots that will provide a sense of what the event was like.

On Friday evening, 349 people attended a 3-hour ADU 101 workshop.

June 2, 2015 · Leave a comment

Spring 2015 ADU project profiles

This is the ADU profile information about the ADUs featured on the spring, 2015 city-wide ADU tour. I’ve taken out the addresses and the link to the mobile-friendly touring map page, … Continue reading

Spring 2015 ADU Tour Project Profiles

This is the ADU profile information about the ADUs featured on the spring, 2015 city-wide ADU tour. I’ve taken out the addresses and the link to the mobile-friendly touring map … Continue reading

Regan Gray & George Okulitch’s ADU: A Super-Efficient ADU

Regan Gray and her husband George Okulitch were looking for a way to increase the value of their rental property and landed on building an ADU on the alley in the backyard. Regan likes that with the ADU they created more housing without changing the look and character of the neighborhood.

January 21, 2015 · 4 Comments

Ten ADU Aspirations for 2015. Let the countdown begin!

As we all know, New Years is a time to conjure up lofty ideas.  Here are a few great ideas that we, the editors of, probably won’t have the time to … Continue reading

December 31, 2014 · Leave a comment

Kathleen Pequeño’s ADU: La Casita & La Casota

The old woodshop on Kathleen Pequeño’s property had “a sense of being useful.” It took a lot of work, but she turned it into a nice small house.

August 22, 2014 · 1 Comment

Francie & Michael Royce’s ADU: A Retirement Plan

Francie and Michael had three primary design criteria for their ADU. First, it had to be easy to maintain. Second, it had to be sustainable – both financially and environmentally. Finally, it had to be a pleasant space to call home.

August 15, 2014 · 1 Comment

Katharine Lawrence & Charlie Weiss’ ADU: Third Time’s a Charmer

The economics of a rentable space were appealing to Charlie and his partner Katharine, so when the couple built their own home they designed it to include an apartment. They’ve now included ADUs in two more homes they’ve built and they’re grateful that Portland’s policies now support the creation of ADUs.

August 1, 2014 · 2 Comments

Repost of Housing Solution: Backyard Cottages Could Add One-Third More Homes to San Francisco

Many cities may claim to allow ADUs in their code, but in fact, their regulations prevent citizens from actually building them. In San Francisco’s case, there are ‘discretionary reviews’ and other … Continue reading

July 14, 2014 · 1 Comment

Don Golden & Edith Casterline’s ADU: A Front Yard Cottage

Don Golden and his wife Edith Casterline built an ADU an unusually public place: their front yard. The new structure serves three main functions: generating rental income, giving Don the woodshop he wants, and bringing activity back to the street.

May 30, 2014 · 10 Comments

Rex Burkholder & Lydia Rich’s ADU: Own Two, Rent Both

Rex and Lydia owned a house with a garage that was falling apart. They decided that rather than rebuilding “a home for a car,” they would create an ADU in their backyard.

May 23, 2014 · 8 Comments

Attend Portland’s Inaugural Accessory Dwelling Unit Tour

Update 5/28/14: There’s been a huge amount of interest in attending this tour, which is fantastic. Over 800 people have registered to attend. The tour is sold out, but you can add your … Continue reading

May 18, 2014 · 2 Comments

Heidi Rose’s ADU: A Home for My Sister

Heidi Rose first learned about ADUs because she was determined to figure out how she could build a home for her sister. Her twin sister was living in Seattle with her two kids and going through a divorce, so Heidi went to the City of Portland’s permitting office to explore alternative housing options. Heidi discovered that in the city of Portland an accessory dwelling unit up to 800 square feet is allowed by right on a single-family lot in most neighborhoods.

May 15, 2014 · 7 Comments

Joe Wachunas & Naomi Cole’s ADU: Reworking the Garage

“I was surprised how easy it is to increase density on a single-family lot and still feel like there’s plenty of space,” says Naomi. “The entire process was one of the most gratifying experiences I’ve had.”

April 4, 2014 · 3 Comments

Derin & Andra William’s ADU: An Energy-Efficient Basement Apartment

Derin and Andra realized that if they were going to a do a full basement remodel, including a full seismic upgrade and new bedrooms, a bathroom, and recreation space, it would make sense to add a kitchen as well to create a fully self-contained unit. As they researched ADUs they were convinced to create one in their basement because it would create housing flexibility, enable them to have family close by, create community, and provide income potential.

March 28, 2014 · 12 Comments

City of Portland ADU Permit Trends

The City of Portland continues to grow its ADU housing stock.  In 2013, there were almost 200 ADU permit applications received, which is about 25% of all single-dwelling permits in Portland.  … Continue reading

March 12, 2014 · 4 Comments

Martha Metzger’s ADU: Rent Now, Move in Someday

Although they initially conceived of the ADU as a rental property, Martha soon decided it was the sort of place she might like to live someday, so they designed the small home accordingly. They were committed to incorporating green building components, including well-insulated walls, Energy Star appliances, on-demand hot water, radiant heat, and plumbing for a grey water option.

February 28, 2014 · 3 Comments

Michael Klepinger’s ADU: Ellen’s Garden Cottage

When Ellen’s new university professorship required relocation to Virginia, they had to make big decisions about their SE Portland property. They knew they wanted to ultimately return to their home in Portland and for the time-being they planned to return during academic breaks. It didn’t make sense to leave their beloved home vacant while they were gone. However, if they leased their property they would have no place to call home when they returned to Portland for the holidays. A little ADU solved the problem.

February 21, 2014 · 4 Comments

Jill’s ADU: A Home of Her Own

Jill’s little home includes salvaged materials, low-flow fixtures, three salvaged doors, no dryer, solar panels, a ductless heat pump, a Rheem water heater, rain garden, skylights, and Marmoleum floors. She also installed grid-tied solar panels on the ADU which cover electricity for her lights, appliances, and heating.

January 24, 2014 · 3 Comments

Susan Moray’s ADU: Updating History in Ladd’s

As she worked with Jack, Susan’s primary design consideration became maximizing the size of the ADU while adhering to Historic Neighborhood requirements. Prior to applying for her permits, Susan paid for a design consultation meeting with the city of Portland and Jack brought preliminary sketches to explore various possibilities.

My architect, Jack, did his homework on what could be built, given these limitations and nailed down a design that was accepted on the first try with no changes. That was impressive. We were told by everyone we would never get what he wanted past city permit without going through design review but he did. -Susan Moray

January 10, 2014 · 11 Comments

Scott Powers’ ADU: 3 Generations at Home

As his father’s 80th birthday approached, Scott Powers began considering next steps that would allow his parents to remain in the Rose City Park neighborhood and retain their independence.

December 31, 2013 · 7 Comments

Zoning Regulations for ADUs in 55 West Coast Cities

Oregon DEQ updated our ADU Zoning matrix recently in collaboration with Sightline Institute’s recent Legalizing Inexpensive Housing series.  Read the whole series – it’s great! A few of the cities stand … Continue reading

March 8, 2013 · 2 Comments

Shawn’s Live-Work Accessory Dwelling

Shawn Busse bought a 950 square foot ranch house on a long, skinny lot with the intention of building an accessory dwelling unit behind it. His plan was to live … Continue reading

February 11, 2012 · 1 Comment
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