Accessory Dwellings

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


We welcome new contributors to this site. There are lots of ways to be involved — some of which only take a few minutes.  While we won’t be able to pay you, you can still get the glory.🙂

The easiest way to help is to send in a link to help fill in our table of local ADU regulations.  If you’ve got a link, leave a comment below.

If you have your own ADU and you’d like to tell the world about it, currently we have a writer who can interview you and write the story.  She’ll ask things like why you built it, what you built, and how it’s working out, for better or worse.   Contact the ADU Case Studies Coordinator, Lina Menard, by emailing   She’ll get back to you quickly.

If you’re academically oriented, and want to contribute to our Zotero database of ADU-related references and citations, we would love some help there.  Check out this page and leave a comment for Martin.

If you’re interested in writing anything else for the site, that’s great!  We would love to have contributions from around the country and world.   Some guidelines are below.  Read them, leave a comment below, and we’ll get back to you pronto.

Guidelines for posts

  • Feel free to range widely in terms of content and style, but make sure whatever you write has some clear relevance to the accessory dwelling concept.
  • The post should have some substance, making at least an itty bitty contribution to the amount of knowledge on the web on this subject.  That doesn’t mean you have to write a phD thesis, just anything more than “hey I found this link on the web check it out.”
  • The easiest way to contribute is to report your own personal experience.  You might describe an accessory dwelling you built, live in, or visited (pictures are most welcome).  Or your experience with a crucial issue related to accessory dwellings (financing, being a landlord/tenant, using a common yard, etc).
  • If you want to write about the general benefits/drawbacks/potential/etc of ADUs, try to synthesize the issue or add intelligent commentary.
  • If your business is related to accessory dwellings, that’s fine!  You can promote your own service, products, or events.  Just make it clear you’re promoting yourself, and provide some value to readers along the way.
  • The only thing we’re shy about right now is unbuilt projects.   We hope can distinguish itself by publicizing dwellings that are actually being built or lived in right now.  However, if you’ve got a really great unbuilt project story, let us know.
  • Copyright and permissions: Please make sure you have appropriate permission or clearance to use the images that appear in your post, and credit the creators of those images.  For example, you can get permission from the photographer directly, or you can use images that are licensed under Creative Commons.  Your posts will be released with a Creative Commons license unless you declare a different license in the body of your post.

We’re anxious to hear your ideas!  Thanks!

– the editors

52 comments on “Contribute

  1. Jessica
    April 15, 2012

    So happy to find this site. I have been researching ADUs for the past year (slowly) and believe your site will help me reach out to a broader community and find further information.

    I am currently in my last semester of graduate school at The University of Texas at Austin, getting my M.S. in Community and Regional Planning. I am doing my thesis on Accessory Dwelling Units. Specifically, a program feasibility study for my hometown of Denton, Texas. The thesis will also include 2 case studies that review current programs for ADUs in the country. One of my case study sites is Santa Cruz, CA, I have not decided on the other yet. (maybe Austin’s SMART Housing program). Any suggestions on other cities with successful ADU programs??? I know Portland and Seattle have great programs but I am trying to find a city less urban or west cost. I wish Austin had a stronger program. Darn!

    Again, so excited to see this site!!


    • Martin John Brown
      April 16, 2012

      Hi Jessica, glad to have you here. I hope you’ll find time to contribute some of what you’re discovering to the site! In fact I’ll make sure you’re invited as a contributor… look for that in your email. In terms of other cities to study, you might want to look through this bibliography I created (and you are welcome to add to as well). This thesis reviews some programs in the Boston area. This review may help you identify some other cities. I am glad you are not just focusing on Santa Cruz. For despite the wonderful publicity the Santa Cruz program has generated, it is really just one city, and the ADU phenomenon is much more widespread. Cheers! Martin

      • Jessica
        April 16, 2012

        Martin, Thank you so much for all the resources. I was happy to see so many of the resources I had already downloaded on your list! I wish I found your site a year ago! I will definitely keep you updated as I discover new things.

  2. James
    May 17, 2012


    Hope you are well!

    I really enjoyed your posts on ADU’s, they show how important they are to building structures and the flexibility of modern homes.

    I’m working with WhatHouse we’d love to work with AccessoryDwellings, would you be open to a guest post on your site?

    Here are a couple of ideas that we think could work really well
    • The opportunity for ADU extensions on new build homes
    • What is more cost effective – a new build or an extension
    • Trends in new housing

    Just to give you a bit of background on WhatHouse in case it’s not a name
    you’re familiar with. WhatHouse offers offer homebuyers looking to purchase new-build homes in the UK everything they need to help their search, from brand new builds to retirement homes.

    Looking forward to hearing from you


    • Martin John Brown
      May 17, 2012

      sounds good, James, I’ll email you.

    • tjshort85
      December 19, 2015

      Hi James,

      I love what you are doing here! I’m glad I found this site. I have some ideas on the subject I’d like to share with you and I’d love your feedback. I first thought this concept a few years ago when I was brainstorming for cheap housing options for myself. I envisioned building a small building or parking a large enclosed trailer on my friends lot and turning it into a simple living unit. I made an agreement to pay my friend who owned the property a small monthly “rent” fee for the land to park on and also pay for my portion of the utilities. It was a win-win solution for my friend and I that would have radically reduced my housing bill. The only problem was the law. Its illegal to permanently live in an RV on residential land. And building a structure requires a permit, which would not be granted for building a second residence. But, a building permit is not required for building accessory buildings on your property as long as its 120 square feet or smaller, only one story tall, a certain distance from the border of your property and all of your accessory buildings do not make up more than X% of your land. So legally, you could throw up several 120 ft buildings in a backyard and run a water hose and electrical cord out to them. This idea could then be expanded to create dirt cheap intentional communities. Imagine being awarded a Community Land Trust and buying a house with many acres on it. You could then build some public facilities for the community and then each person receives a 120 ft building which is only theirs where they will sleep and store their personal belongings. Applying a few more principles to this idea could easily allow this to be a sustainable eco-community as well. Its a beautiful idea that holds the possibility of providing the cheapest and smartest housing in the US. The biggest question in my mind is legality. My understanding is that its perfectly legal for people to “sleep over” or camp out in these dwellings. However, it is not legal to claim a “storage building” as your primary residence. An individual might be able to avoid problems by simply being smart and keeping a low profile. But thats not possible for a community. So I would love to hear your thoughts and feedback. Is this possible? Has it already been done? Are there cities in the US that would allow this? Are there any loopholes? What if you called it a campground instead of accessory buildings behind a primary residence?

  3. Ben Ross
    September 6, 2012

    In Montgomery County, Maryland, the Planning Board has proposed a very modest liberalization of accessory apartment rules. Advocates for transit, tenants, and smart growth want something less restrictive. Here are my blog post on the subject and testimony being submitted to a Tuesday hearing by the Action Committee for Transit

  4. Greg
    August 9, 2013

    Hi- I enjoyed your posts on ADUs in Portland! Do you have any ideas (or have heard stories) for how someone who is interested in living in an ADU might be able to buy/build one without owning the larger house? Would a homeowner who has built an ADU be able to sell it? I doubt they would, but who knows…

    • Martin John Brown
      August 9, 2013

      Greg, an ADU is by definition owned by the same party who owns the larger house. It’s not a division of land or property — it’s just an additional dwelling on what is usually a single-dwelling property. The whole property is bought or sold as a single package. So I’d say building one on somebody else’s property wouldn’t make a lot of sense.

      HOWEVER you could just drive an RV onto someone else’s property (assuming they give permission🙂 )– in a way that would function as an ADU. People do that a lot in rural areas. Or your could build a tiny house on a trailer, as a lot of people out there are doing, and pull that onto somebody else’s property. Let us know what you come up with.

  5. john hayden
    November 7, 2013

    Hi Editors,

    My company,, has recently expanded to the Portland market and would love to be a part of your group and provide posts for this page. We’ve helped over 65 clients in the Bay Area in just a few short years of business and are very excited about the Pacific Northwest.

    It’d be great to hear from you,


  6. Rachel F. Ginis
    November 23, 2013

    I created a design/build firm,, in Marin County, California. We specialize in space and energy efficiency. We develop ADU’s and JR Units in existing homes to provide more affordable housing options in the San Francisco Bay Area.

    I would love to contribute content to your site. You provide a great service to the community – Thank you so much! I look forward to hearing from you.


  7. Sarah Henderson
    February 3, 2014

    Hi Editors, John of New Avenue Homes recommended that I check out your site! WOW, there is alot of useful info to sift through.I’m hoping to develop a tiny house myself– though have just started doing research and there is a great deal of legwork to do! ie securing a lot on the coast or in the wine country, TBD. If you are in need of a photo contributor I appreciate your keeping me in mind. Where can I send you photo links? Thank you! Best, Sarah

  8. toby
    May 8, 2014

    Here’s a link to PIttsburgh, PA’s regulations:

  9. Kristie Francis
    June 18, 2014

    My husband I plan to move to Portland soon, and we hope to buy a home with an ADU so that … well, for more reasons than I can list here! I have contacted two realtors; neither has an efficient way to find these homes without my wading through dozens of listings that might include certain key words in their descriptions. At this point I don’t even want to consider a home without an ADU; there must be a better way to find these elusive needles in the Portland haystack, isn’t there? Are there realtors who specialize in homes with ADUs? Help!

    • Martin John Brown
      June 18, 2014

      Kristie, I don’t personally know a better way to search for houses with ADUs. There had been some talk of updating the RMLS database (used by realtors) to include an ADU field, but I don’t know if it has been put into effect. It’s worth asking your agent about. Here on this site we hope to have a forum of some kind where ADU-friendly professionals can list themselves, but we haven’t set it up yet. If you’d like to help out with that project, let us know.🙂
      Good luck!

  10. Kristie Francis
    July 9, 2014

    I just wrote a fairly long, detailed reply, but then must have hit a wrong key and it’s gone! Gggrrr! Did you get it? Kristie Francis

  11. Martin John Brown
    July 9, 2014

    Hi Kristie, sorry, I think it was lost in the ether. But the shorter comment came through. I can email you if you’d like. –Martin

  12. Harrison
    November 5, 2014

    Just discovered this site thanks to a Congress for the New Urbanism newsletter. I noticed you do not have a link to ADU regulations for my city, El Paso, Texas, so, here is one:

    Keep up the good work!

  13. Colin Cortes
    November 26, 2014

    The City of Tualatin, Oregon allows ADUs by right, without need of a zoning permit, and assuming compliance with the standards in Tualatin Development Code (TDC) 34.310 .

    By the way, Metro, the regional government of the Portland, Oregon metro area, requires cities and counties to allow ADUs pursuant to Metro Code Section 3.07.120(G).

  14. Emily Key
    November 28, 2014

    Opelika, AL. County: Lee.

    Illegal to live in a tiny house on personal property because only one residence is allowed per lot. Got an empty lot? Still can’t live in it because they have to be 800 sq ft minimum.

    I’ve been told i can park it in an RV park but I have to move it frequently (I think either 30 or 60 days)

    • Martin John Brown
      November 29, 2014

      Thanks Emily. I put it on the “Rules” page.

    • Melissa
      March 31, 2015

      I am not sure what the building codes are here in Huntsville Alabama.

    • Katherine Webb
      August 22, 2016

      Is there a link to the Lee County, Alabama regulations on Accessory Dwellings on line that I would be able to read? The regulations for an accessory dwelling in the City of Auburn state that the utilities must be tied in to the primary residence and the size may not be more than 30% of the size of the primary residence or 1000 Sq Ft, whichever is lower. It also has to meet the same construction standards as a single family residence. I am understanding this to mean that a site built accessory dwelling is allowed in the Auburn City as long as it meets building codes. I am looking at Loachapoka and a city official there has advised that a single family home cannot have someone living full time in their yard in an RV. If your tiny house is on wheels, it would be considered an RV. Loachapoka follows the same codes as Lee County from the information I have been able to find.

      • Martin John Brown
        August 22, 2016

        Hey Katherine and Emily, thanks for your interest. Let’s move the discussion to the “Rules In Your Area” page of the site. If anyone finds rules for Lee County or Auburn please leave a comment with a link to the source information on that page. Thanks! -ed.

  15. charlotte Lewis
    November 29, 2014

    do you have Atlanta, GA on your list of regulations needed

    • Martin John Brown
      November 29, 2014

      We don’t have anything for Atlanta right now on the rules page. If you can find out we’d be happy to post the details there.

  16. Kristie Francis
    October 21, 2015

    I contacted you a year and a half ago; my move to Portland is still scheduled for next summer (2016), and I am still hoping to buy a house with an ADU or the potential for one. I am working with a realtor who does not know of an organization or process that can help me find these rare needles in the PDX real-estate haystack. Actually, the availability of homes is more like a bale of hay, or a bucket at best … the selections are pretty limited in this sellers market, aren’t they! Apparently there’s no list of such homes that are for sale – can you offer any suggestions?

    • Martin John Brown
      October 21, 2015

      Kristie, have you or your agent tried looking in the MLS system in the “notes” field, looking for anything like “ADU”, “granny flat,” “in-law unit,” etc. It’s not efficient, but tThat’s what I would do. Some of the results would not be real ADUs, but you can always check for ADU permit status for a particular address at . Hope that helps! Martin

  17. Kristie Francis
    October 21, 2015

    We’ve been using the wide range of ADU keywords in the notes, and it does provide a few hits. The permit-status-checking website will be helpful – Thanks! Kristie

    • Martin John Brown
      October 22, 2015

      Kristie, it may be that, since ADU’s are rare, there simply aren’t that many relevant properties for sale at any one time. Not that that really helps, but it is an explanation for why you might not find much.😐

  18. Kristie Francis
    October 22, 2015

    Martin, Lennar is working on a few communities in the Portland area; each community has ten or so different styles, and they say that one or two of those are “NextGen” homes (which, as you probably know, include an ADU … “two homes under one roof”). The communities are too far out for me, and the homes are pretty pricey, but other readers of your blog might want to take a closer look. Good luck to all!

  19. หนังโป
    December 15, 2015

    Just wish to say your article is as astonishing.
    The clarity to your submit is just excellent and
    i can think you are knowledgeable in this subject.
    Well with your permission let me to clutch your RSS feed to keep up to date with forthcoming
    post. Thanks 1,000,000 and please carry on the gratifying work.

  20. Pingback: Accessory Dwellings

  21. mlwinnig
    December 19, 2015

    Wisconsin – Madison error: not a .pdf file

  22. Matthew S Juhlin
    December 21, 2015

    New Hampshire: in March 2015 a bill, SB 146, was brought before the Senate that “establishes requirements for local regulation of accessory dwelling units” . I know very little about legislation so I don’t know its chances of passing. I did a Google search for the zoning laws for my town and it seems that ADUs, both detached and attached, are permitted at the local level. Now I’m off to check that with a lawyer!

  23. timgwiley
    January 31, 2016

    We have a home in NE Portland with an ADU unit. We have been trying to refinance the house in order to get the interest rate lowered. We live in the ADU Unit and rent out the main house. We have been leasing out the main house for over 6 years. THe problem that we are running into is that we will need the income from the rent in order to qualify for a conventional 30 year loan. The rental income has always been claimed on our taxes and the state and federal govenment want taxes paid on the income. We are being told that the proceeds of rent from an ADU will not be able to be used as Income to qualify for a loan.

    We do not understand how the government will tax the rent as income and the banks tha are regulated by the goernment do not see it as income.

    Does anyone know of a way to use ADU rental income as income to finance our refiannce? We are paying 6.25% interest and if we could get it down to 4.5% or so we could afford to keep the house.

    Any thoughts?

    • Martin John Brown
      January 31, 2016

      Hi Tim, sorry to hear about your refinancing woes. I am surprised with that long a track record the income isn’t being considered. Have you gotten this response from more than 1 lender? How about financing it as a duplex, where it is a common scenario for the owner to live in one unit. Just some ideas. Good luck!

      • timgwiley
        January 31, 2016

        We have talked to several lenders we are just now looking at the duplex option. We need to find out what would need to be done to convert. Do you know what would need to be done. Separate electric Meters? Gas meeters? We have seporate entrances. Lenders have indicated that a duplex would help with counting the rent as income. Thanks for your help.

      • Martin John Brown
        January 31, 2016

        Tim, I am not talking about re-permitting it as a duplex. I am talking about refinancing it as a duplex. I know at least one person with a house + ADU who has done that.

        I think one source of your confusion might be this: you are assuming that zoning or permit status (which comes from the local government) is strongly tied to lending policies (which comes from various corporate underwriters). It is not! In my experience they have little to do with one another.

        The whole thing with separate gas meters, etc is a distraction. Some corporate underwriters might ask about it, but it is a very weak proxy for the number of units. Obviously there are many old multi unit apartment buildings with only one water meter, but that doesn’t mean the apartments aren’t separate and legal!

        I would keep looking for lenders who understand the situation and recognize your long history of demonstrated income.

        Kol and Eli, any input here?

  24. timgwiley
    January 31, 2016

    We had one appraiser tell us that he could not call it a duplex because it was permitted as an ADU. ANy idea who the lender was that they might have used?
    So far we have been hitting a wall with this.
    Thanks for your help?

  25. timgwiley
    January 31, 2016

    I did not intend to end with a ?

  26. Kol Peterson
    January 31, 2016


    Is your ADU permitted?

    The information that follows is only relevant if your ADU is permitted. If your ADU is not permitted, then your appraiser will not able to look at the ADU as an income generating unit. They must appraise the property as they would appraise any other single family property.

    If it IS permitted, then you can read through this post to help you seek out a mortgage advisor that will help ensure that you can look for an appraiser who understands what ADUs actually are and how the rental income can be used a viable source of income to qualify for loan and to show that the permitted ADU has income value for purposes of appraising the ADU correctly (like a duplex).

    Also, there’s an upcoming class on appraising permitted ADUs that you want to consider attending.

  27. A. Wis
    February 29, 2016

    Buying a property in Black Mountain NC, where ADUs are permitted, but sellers have a hard time selling great properties. Apparently lenders are still not granting conventional loans on these. Do you have any update as to how to obtain a loan at conventional-financing rates? At least one unit will be owner-occupied.

    • Martin John Brown
      March 1, 2016

      Sounds like a local situation — you might want to keep looking for lenders who understand what an ADU is. The general practice of lenders and the industry has been to kind of ignore an ADU if it is already on the property (in fact there is a whole bunch of Fannie Mae policy about how to deal with illegal ADUs). Generally lenders treat the whole property as a Single Family Residence — which is what they are used to dealing with. This can be good, or bad. If someone can make the payment while pretending the ADU doesn’t exist, they can get the loan. The trickier part is getting lenders to recognize the value, and income, associated with having an ADU. The lender may not recognize any income that might be generated by the ADU, for example. We’ve written a lot about financing for ADUs — look here for example . While that is mostly about getting together the money to build an ADU, a lot of the same issues apply. Good luck!

      • Mike Shelton
        March 1, 2016

        Here in Houston, we call ADU’s garage apartments. All we build are garage apartments in the historic Houston Heights. We have zero down financing with Frost bank, I don’t know i they have branches up there our contact is Gary Roney 713-388-7848. Good luck

  28. Eileen Lacaden
    March 2, 2016

    Hawaii Appleseed Center for Law and Economic Justice created an ADU website specific to the City & County of Honolulu. I’d like to share the website with the viewers of to get some feedback on how we can improve it.

  29. Diane
    September 27, 2016

    Just did some searches for Baltimore County Maryland and found this information. Thought it would be good for your list.,accessory%20apartment,apartments,accessory#15637722

  30. Pingback: I’m semi-retiring! (On a personal note…) | Accessory Dwellings

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: