Accessory Dwellings

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

Why ADUs are hard to study, and confuse nearly everyone

ADUs are a really unusual form of development. This post goes over their special qualities, and explains why a lot of “debate” about ADUs is so repetitive.

June 11, 2014 · 11 Comments

Research and policy about accessory dwelling units: introducing a 13-part series

Which hopes and fears about ADUs are most likely to be true? Explore claims and controversies with new evidence, in this 13-part series, beginning today.

June 4, 2014 · 19 Comments

Follow up on the June 1st ADU Tour

On Sunday, we hosted Build Small, Live Large: Portland’s Accessory Dwelling Unit Tour. Over 500 people signed up for the early bird registration, and by the time 800 people registered five … Continue reading

June 2, 2014 · 1 Comment

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

Repost of Little Pink Houses: Debate Regarding Zoning Laws and Accessory Dwelling Units Getting More and More Relevant

We thought this National Law Review article was interesting because it deals with the legal issues that ADUs confront in municipalities around the US. You can read more about how … Continue reading

May 12, 2014 · Leave a comment

Stradivarius violins and cigar box guitars (Making sense of ADU construction costs)

An experienced developer explains why ADUs have such a wide range of costs, and how to estimate costs for your own project.

May 1, 2014 · 9 Comments

Heard rumors about an ADU Tour?

Well, they’re true. On Sunday, June 1st, in partnership with the City of Portland, Metro, and the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, Caravan- The Tiny House Hotel, is running Portland’s … Continue reading

March 16, 2014 · Leave a comment

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 · 5 Comments

Are Tiny Houses and ADUs the same thing? Not always, but they’re really good friends

Boy, you know it’s been a great day for the website when Carpet Carl tweet-checks it! A few days ago, a post about ADUs by Michael Andersen on bikeportland.org got … Continue reading

March 1, 2014 · 7 Comments

ADU Case Studies Project Launch

In the summer of 2013 Oregon DEQ conducted a survey of Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) owners. We received an excellent response from across the state and have published the ADU … Continue reading

December 28, 2013 · 3 Comments

Renovation loan: a new way to finance ADU construction

Financing your ADU has become easier. I am sure that when someone mentions financing, or budgeting, or anything to do with numbers for a project there is a slight shudder … Continue reading

November 15, 2013 · Leave a comment

ADU owners: take this survey from students at UC Berkeley

Hey folks, if you aren’t familiar with New Avenue Homes, you should be.  They’re a developer/builder that has created dozens of ADUs in the Bay Area, and their CEO Kevin … Continue reading

November 14, 2013 · Leave a comment

Breaking Bad is over. It’s Time to Break Even.

Cooking meth is apparently one way to make money fast. But, for many of us, this option is far less appealing now that we’ve finished watching Breaking Bad. After the … Continue reading

October 21, 2013 · 2 Comments

ADU Survey Report Published

A survey of ADU owners in Portland, Eugene, and Ashland, Oregon is complete and now published.  You can find it at Oregon DEQ’s website and AccessoryDwellings.org.  This mail and web survey … Continue reading

October 4, 2013 · 6 Comments

Free Bike Tour of ADUs in Portland on Saturday

*Editors Note: The Oregonian posted a short article about this tour* If you’re in Portland, consider joining this year’s biking tour of ADUs and tiny houses in Portland, Oregon on … Continue reading

June 26, 2013 · 1 Comment

ADU Survey is underway!

A new survey of ADU owners has been mailed to over 900 ADU owners in Portland, Eugene, and Ashland, Oregon. The purpose of this survey is to better understand how … Continue reading

June 8, 2013 · Leave a comment

Do lax “granny flat” regulations encourage absentee landlords? Some new evidence from Portland.

Imagine, in the abstract, the absentee landlord. I personally see him as a sort of Dickensian villain, say Sir Mulberry Hawk, coarse in intention despite his fine clothing and mustache, … Continue reading

May 29, 2013 · 6 Comments

Discreet Density

Skinny homes on 25’ wide lots.  New apartment buildings without off-street parking.  Bulky 2,500+ sq. ft. ‘traditional craftsman’ homes popping up all over the inner-east side.  These are Portland’s most … Continue reading

May 4, 2013 · 9 Comments

Why Are Permitted ADUs So Rare?

From Washington DC to Vancouver BC to Boston, MA, there are more and more examples in the media of individuals attempting to build and live in smaller dwellings and in … Continue reading

March 30, 2013 · 5 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

Finally, A Loan Product That Works for Constructing ADUs

In most markets, financing the construction of ADU’s is notoriously difficult. When constructing an ADU, you need to have all the cash upfront to pay a contractor for the cost … Continue reading

January 28, 2013 · 5 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

Multigenerational homes: accessory dwelling units by any other name

In the past year or two, major builders have accomplished an interesting slight of hand.  They have recognized the need for houses with ADUs, and started selling them for tidy … Continue reading

November 30, 2012 · 4 Comments

Appraisal Journal on ADUs: they could be worth more than you think

Today the Appraisal Journal publishes a research paper about residential properties with accessory dwelling units (ADUs).  The paper describes an income-based method for appraising properties with ADUs, and concludes that … Continue reading

November 20, 2012 · 10 Comments

So, You Want to Rent an ADU in Portland…

…well, join the club. Detached ADUs are in short supply, and huge demand. The fact that they are in short supply and high demand should serve as a strong indicator … Continue reading

November 15, 2012 · Leave a comment

Videos from the Build Small | Live Large Housing Summit

Here are a few of the videos from the Build Small | Live Large Summit. For more videos and presentations, check out the conference home page. The quality of the … Continue reading

November 8, 2012 · Leave a comment

Build Small | Live Large Housing – The Beginning of Something Small

On Friday, October 26th, we held an incredible event at Portland State University. It was the first summit of its kind, focusing on space efficient housing. The Build Small | … Continue reading

November 1, 2012 · 1 Comment

Build Small / Live Large Housing Summit

When measuring energy use on a per sq ft basis, large homes are often more energy efficient. The problem is that energy is actually used on a per person basis … Continue reading

October 9, 2012 · 4 Comments

Staircases in ADUs

When I was designing my ADU with an architect, the stairs presented the most challenging aspect of the whole design.  Stairs and their associated components (guardrails, handrails, ceiling, stair treads) … Continue reading

September 27, 2012 · 4 Comments

Two Free Tickets for the Build It Green Tour

For fans of ADUs in Portland, tomorrow is a great chance to see some in person. I have two tickets for tomorrow’s Build it Green tour, which will feature 8 … Continue reading

September 21, 2012 · Leave a comment

Why Oregon DEQ loves ADUs

Basic logic tells us that smaller homes use less energy and fewer building materials. How much less? What’s the environmental benefit of small homes? We at the Oregon Department of … Continue reading

September 13, 2012 · 2 Comments

Tiny Dwellings in Portlandia? (video)

The IFC show Portlandia has garned lots of attention in Portland. It even inspired a fan contest in which Portland residents submitted their own ‘Portlandia’ inspired videos. This hilarious video … Continue reading

August 28, 2012 · 2 Comments

Little is Large on Portland’s 2012 Build It Green! Home Tour

The City of Portland’s Build It Green! Home Tour and Info Fair (BIG!) turns eleven this year. BIG! is a self-guided tour of 16 green remodels and new homes around … Continue reading

August 17, 2012 · 3 Comments

A Bike Tour of Accessory Dwelling Units (video)

In June, Portland State University master’s student and Orange Splot intern, Lina Menard, organized a great bike tour of some ADUs in NE Portland. Mark Rainha compiled and edited an … Continue reading

August 2, 2012 · 1 Comment

The many and confusing synonyms for ADUs

A quick note about language here.  One reason people get so confused, and perhaps heated, about accessory dwellings is that language about them is  confused.  The different names conjure up … Continue reading

June 4, 2012 · 23 Comments

Refinancing an ADU – a mortgage broker’s perspective

As a mortgage broker in the Portland area for almost 8 years, I’ve learned “the harder I work, the luckier I get” is really true. In this instance hard work … Continue reading

March 13, 2012 · 1 Comment

My tiny house after 5 years: things I would have done differently

I’ve written here about how well my tiny house is working out — I converted my detached 1.5-car garage to a little “accessory dwelling unit” and have mostly rented it … Continue reading

February 27, 2012 · 7 Comments

A research and action agenda for Accessory Dwelling Units and their advocates

I spent a lot of 2011 learning about Accessory Dwelling Units (also known as in-law units, granny flats, backyard cottages, etc).  Beat that in terms of geekiness!  (Okay, I bow … Continue reading

January 10, 2012 · 8 Comments

New Energy Performance Incentive Available for New ADUs

In a post on my personal ADU blog, I described an awesome building incentive that was made available for my ADU from the Energy Trust of Oregon (ETO). My ADU … Continue reading

January 4, 2012 · 4 Comments

Appraising properties with accessory dwelling units: a preview of new methods and findings

[update Nov. 2012: the paper, including updated results, is out in Appraisal Journal… click here] This year I’ve been working with appraiser Taylor Watkins of problem of appraising properties with … Continue reading

December 21, 2011 · 15 Comments

Documents about ADUs and appraisals

[this material may be somewhat dated, please look for newer posts about appraisals by searching the site — ed.] Link to Appraisal Journal paper published 2012: Understanding and Appraising Properties … Continue reading

December 18, 2011 · 2 Comments

Notes from a presentation on appraising ADUs

[Kol Peterson attended Martin Brown and Taylor Watkin’s presentation on appraising ADUs and came away with these notes about how appraisal issues affect homeowners. For Martin’s summary of the event, … Continue reading

December 17, 2011 · 1 Comment

Dwelling in the Urban Alleys of DC (Part II)

Part One of this post ended with the restoration movement’s success in fending off an outright ban on existing alley dwellings in Washington DC. In this follow-up, I’d like to … Continue reading

December 11, 2011 · 4 Comments

Dwelling in the Urban Alleys of DC

A book review of Alley Life in Washington (Editor note: this is part one one of a two part series. You can read part II here.) Alley Life in Washington … Continue reading

December 5, 2011 · 5 Comments

Portland small home survey

Attention: If you are seeking the Oregon DEQ, Metro, and accessorydwellings.org survey being conducted in June, 2013, please visit http://adusurvey.org/ From garage lofts, to backyard cottages, to yurts, to cute … Continue reading

December 1, 2011 · Leave a comment

“Understanding and Appraising properties with Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs)” – a free seminar December 16, 2011 in Portland

[EDITOR’S NOTE: this event has already occurred! For a synopsis of results, click here.] (for an emailable PDF of this invitation, click here) A presentation for real estate, building, and … Continue reading

November 21, 2011 · Leave a comment

How appraisals and “GSEs” make financing an ADU challenging

(Update January 2013: please note that the research on which the following piece was based has now been published in Appraisal Journal.   Please read the full text of that article … Continue reading

November 21, 2011 · 11 Comments

Cider Mixer and OPEN HOUSE at new Eco-ADU in NE Portland: this Wednesday, November 16, 4-6pm

Please join Hammer & Hand this Wednesday, November 16 for “cider libations and greenbuilding revelations” at the new Alameda Ridge ADU.  Hammer & Hand’s project team will be joined by … Continue reading

November 14, 2011 · Leave a comment

Can ADUs solve our McMansion problem? Or maybe the other way around?

Accessory dwellings don’t often get a thorough discussion in the media these days, because most writers (and most Americans) are still getting used to the basic idea of them.   We’re … Continue reading

November 10, 2011 · Leave a comment

Building design and construction process – step by step

Reasonable people may disagree, but here are the sequential steps in designing and building an ADU. This is an approximation of the steps for my ADU project, anyway. This was … Continue reading

November 9, 2011 · 11 Comments

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