With the cost of housing climbing further and further out of reach for low and middle-income individuals and families, many cities across the US are relaxing their regulations to encourage the growth of ADU housing.
If you haven’t heard this term before, you might be wondering what is ADU housing exactly?
ADUs, or accessory dwelling units, are a great alternative to traditional rentals in cities where affordable rent is a challenge to find. ADUs also increase property values and can be a lucrative investment for homeowners.
This article will discuss what constitutes an ADU and the different types of ADU affordable housing.
What Is ADU Housing?
An accessory dwelling unit, or ADU, is the legal term for a small house or apartment that shares the same lot as a primary dwelling. ADUs are typically much smaller than what we think of as an average-sized house.
Usually, ADUs are one of two units on a single-family residential lot. They are owned by the same person who owns the lot and primary dwelling.
An ADU can be attached or detached from the primary unit. Attached ADUs most often use the water and energy connections of the main house, while independently-standing ADUs have their own sources.
Informal ADUs have been around for a while but permitted ADUs are growing in popularity. Many of us might have grown up with informal ADUs inside or attached to our homes without realizing it.
Other terms used to describe ADUs include granny flat, mother-in-law suite, secondary dwelling unit, or carriage house, among others. You’ve likely heard of these terms more often than the term ADU.
ADUs are in a unique category of housing. This is because they are secondary housing units on single-family residentially zoned properties.
There are a large range of municipal zoning and land use regulations that govern which types of ADUs you can build and how you can use them. You can follow this link to find out the exact regulations for building an ADU in your city.
Because of the varying regulations, there are much larger numbers of informal ADUs compared to permitted ones. An informal ADU refers to one that is unpermitted and discretely contained within the primary dwelling.
An example of an informal ADU is a converted attic or basement space, or a converted room over a garage.
What Counts As ADU Housing?
While there are many different types of ADUs, the differences can be both obvious and slight. To make it easier to comprehend the vast variety of ADU styles, we’ve broken it down for you.
The most common types of ADU structures fall into the following categories.
Detached New Construction ADUs
These are the type of ADUs commonly referred to as granny flats. They are new-builds that have been added to the property. They are entirely separate structures from the main home.
Tiny houses sometimes fall into the category of a detached ADU. However, they do not always fit the bill. This is because detached ADUs are often required to have their own source of water and power.
Addition Or Bump Out ADUs
Sometimes, homeowners prefer to create an ADU addition that is attached to the primary dwelling. This can be more convenient because the ADU can share the main home’s water and electric connections.
Garage Conversion ADUs
This is when a detached garage gets converted into a separate living space. If you live in a mild-weather climate and can park your car outdoors year-round, this is a good option.
ADUs Above a Garage or Workshop
These are a converted space above the garage. It allows the garage to remain functional while creating a living space overhead.
Basement Conversion ADUs
Just like an attic, a basement can be converted into a comfortable living space. However, it can take a little more effort to bring in natural light and control humidity.
These are ADUs built inside a part of the primary dwelling that is not the basement. Internal ADUs share utilities with the primary dwelling. Unfortunately, they can be difficult and expensive to build to code.
Why Build An ADU?
Some will tell you building an ADU on your property is the best investment they ever made. Others will tell you it comes with its share of complications and consequences.
Although it can be expensive, building an ADU is nowhere near as costly as constructing a primary home in a major US city. It is one way to provide affordable housing in places where most can’t afford to own and rent is high.
Here are a few other reasons you might find building an ADU to be a good investment:
To Earn Supplemental Income
Many people choose to use an ADU as a vacation or full-time rental. This can be very helpful in paying off your mortgage or saving for retirement.
Keep in mind, if you rent your ADU as a vacation rental, you will be responsible for cleaning and maintaining it.
To Add Property Value
In most cases, ADUs can increase the value of a property. Many buyers are interested in homes with ADUs because of the prospect of earning extra income without much effort.
To House Older Family Members
At some point, most of us have to figure out what to do with our aging parents or grandparents. Nursing homes can be costly and impersonal.
ADUs are a great way to give our older loved ones the gift of aging at home surrounded by family. Acton ADU points out that ADUs are a great way to add privacy and comfort for multi-generational households.
To Provide Affordable Housing For Adult Children & Young Families
An ADU can make an excellent living space for a child in college or a recent graduate. It can also be a great place for a young family to live while saving up for the future.
Some homeowners feel better having another person close by. An ADU is a great idea for empty-nesters and widows/widowers.
Renting out the extra space to someone else, or having a friend or family member move in can be comforting in these situations.
Is Building An ADU the Right Choice For You?
Now that you have a solid understanding of what is ADU housing, what type of ADU will you choose?
Before you get started, make sure to research the zoning laws in your city. It’s also important to familiarize yourself with the regulations for renting before you commit to building an ADU.
If you found this article useful, make sure to check out our other articles about home improvement!