Accessory Dwellings

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

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 · 2 Comments

ADUs’ Tiny Relatives (video)

There’s a lot of half-baked information about ‘tiny homes’ on the web, which leads to confusion and misunderstanding about the differences between ADUs and tiny houses on wheels. I find myself explaing the differences between them at least five times a week.

This confusion is largely attributable to media coverage that conflates ADUs and tiny houses on wheels as ‘tiny homes’. I’m a fan of both housing forms, but they are extremely different types of housing products.

November 22, 2016 · Leave a comment

ADU Storage Solutions

I’ve picked up lots of small space storage solutions over the past couple years as I interviewed ADU homeowners and designers for the ADU Case Studies Project. You may just have to read through the whole set of case studies to see ALL the clever ideas, but here I’ll pick out my top 10 favorites.

May 27, 2016 · 10 Comments

Tips for Basement to ADU Conversions

Read on to learn about the benefits of basement ADUs, find links to examples of basement ADUs, and become familiar with what the deal-breakers are if you’re considering converting a basement into an ADU.

May 6, 2016 · 3 Comments

Tips for Garage to ADU Conversions

Garage to ADU conversions are the second most common way to create additional dwelling space within our existing building stock. Read on to learn about the benefits of garage to ADU conversions, find links to examples of converted garage ADUs, and become familiar with what the deal-breakers are if you’re considering converting a garage into an ADU.

April 15, 2016 · 4 Comments

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

Will short term rentals actually reduce long term housing in granny flats?

It’s not intuitive, but prohibiting short-term rentals in ADUs won’t necessarily lead to a bigger supply of long-term residential housing. This post includes new data about the number of ADUs and short-term rentals in Portland, and the longevity of short-term rental listings.

April 4, 2016 · 5 Comments

How to Buy or Sell a Property with an ADU (or ADU Potential)

When it comes time to buy or sell a property with an ADU (or ADU potential), there are a few important things you should know. I’ve drawn on the expertise of ADU aware Realtors in Portland, OR to identify some key considerations for each step: selecting a realtor, searching for a property, and listing your house with an ADU.

March 25, 2016 · 2 Comments

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

Creative ADU Types

I didn’t realize that there were so many creative ways to make an ADU. Here are the 10 most interesting examples of Creative ADU Types I’ve encountered.

February 12, 2016 · 3 Comments

ADUs Work for Multigenerational Families: The Hidden Value of ADUs

The hidden value of ADUs is particularly evident in the conversations I’ve had with multigenerational families who use an ADU to create greater housing flexibility and security. There are so many tangible and intangible benefits of creating a multi-generational housing situation that I can’t possibly catalog them all here. But I’d like to give you a sense of how ADUs are working for multigenerational families.

January 22, 2016 · 10 Comments

Options for ADU Owners: Rent One, Both, or Neither

ADU owners appreciate that having two dwelling units on their property provides a lot of options. In places where there are not owner occupancy requirements – such as Portland, OR – ADU owners can use their properties in any of the following ways…

January 1, 2016 · 17 Comments

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

Over Thanksgiving weekend in late November, more than thirty Portland homeowners emailed the Administrator Humphrey of the Oregon Department of Revenue with a formal request to return to the common improvement tax … Continue reading

December 23, 2015 · 23 Comments

The Accessory Structures Zoning Code Update Passed

Good News for Detached ADUs It is great to see incremental improvements being made to regulatory ADU codes across the country. Austin, TX recently made some improvements to their ADU … Continue reading

December 2, 2015 · 9 Comments

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

Commissioner Loretta Smith from Multnomah County, District 2 stepped up last week as the first of Multnomah County Commissioners to speak out against the unfair tax re-MAV issue that has been … Continue reading

November 23, 2015 · 39 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 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

Alan Durning Keynote Speaker at the Fall Build Small Live Large Summit

Conference is Sold Out!  Alan Durning, a long-time sustainability leader in the Northwest, is newly fired up—and for good reason. Since founding Sightline Institute in 1993, he has written more … Continue reading

August 21, 2015 · Leave a comment

Berkeley ADUs and Perceptions of Density

by Alberto Benejam, Based on a report by Sonia-Lynn Abenojar, Alberto Benejam, and Tamar Nativ Throughout the past year, the city of Berkeley, CA has been considering changes to the city’s … Continue reading

August 3, 2015

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 · 11 Comments

Real estate rage in Portland! Or, ode on a purple shed

Up for rent in Portland, February 2015: a tiny purple structure in someone’s backyard, apparently a converted garden shed. At 165 square feet, it had the same area of 5 … Continue reading

May 27, 2015 · 10 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 accessorydwellings.org, probably won’t have the time to … Continue reading

December 31, 2014 · Leave a comment

Innovative “Junior” accessory dwelling unit Zoning Ordinance Passed in Novato, California

Novato, California will allow a simpler, lower-cost style of accessory dwelling unit starting in 2015 — the JADU or “junior accessory dwelling unit.”

December 14, 2014 · 2 Comments

Model Code for Accessory Dwelling Units

Practically every week, we learn of a new US city or county that is adopting or revisiting zoning code language on accessory dwelling units (ADUs). Some are thinking of allowing … Continue reading

November 25, 2014 · 14 Comments

Garage apartments in Houston

Houston, Texas has a long tradition of accessory dwelling units. It also has a unique lack of zoning rules. Could it be the next hotbed of ADU creativity?

November 19, 2014 · 2 Comments

Summing up ADU research: are accessory dwelling units as great, or as horrible, as people say?

Collected research about accessory dwelling units (AKA granny flats, laneway houses, in-law units, etc) suggests they have many potential benefits, and two common arguments “against” are unsupported.

September 17, 2014 · 9 Comments

Accessory dwelling units: what further research should be done?

ADUs are especially promising as environmentally sensitive and affordable housing, and this potential should be investigated in detail.

September 3, 2014 · 4 Comments

What are the barriers to ADU development?

Government rules strongly limit the development of ADUs, but they are not the only factor.

August 21, 2014 · 8 Comments

Do ADUs provide affordable housing?

If the “grassroots” nature of their development is properly understood, ADUs have a lot of potential to address affordable housing needs.

August 7, 2014 · 15 Comments

How do ADUs contribute to the local economy? (Or, will building an ADU raise my property taxes?)

Will building an ADU raise your property taxes? Very likely yes. Is that a good thing for the community?

July 30, 2014 · 6 Comments

Do accessory dwelling units serve older persons? (Or, who lives in, and owns, ADUs?)

Older persons are expected to benefit from ADUs. Is this happening now, and will it happen more in the future?

July 23, 2014 · 3 Comments

Do ADUs cause neighborhood parking problems?

The single biggest and most specific fear mentioned by ADU opponents is loss of street parking. Is there any evidence on this?

July 16, 2014 · 7 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

Are ADUs green housing?

New evidence shows that ADUs have serious potential as environmentally sensitive housing.

July 9, 2014 · 6 Comments

How do ADUs affect property values?

Opponents of ADUs frequently charge they will bring down property values for the whole neighborhood. What is the evidence?

July 2, 2014 · 9 Comments

How much do ADUs cost to build?

Some survey results about ADU costs… and some thoughts about why ADU developers aren’t usually real estate “pros.”

June 25, 2014 · 8 Comments

Do ADUs actually provide housing?

It may seem odd to ask whether a housing form actually provides housing, but it’s a key premise in civic debates about accessory dwelling units.

June 18, 2014 · 4 Comments

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 · 17 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

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

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

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

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

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

Discrete 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

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 · 24 Comments
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