What is an ADU: Accessory Dwelling Units

An accessory dwelling unit, usually just called an ADU, is a secondary housing unit on a single-family residential lot. The term “accessory dwelling unit” is a institutional-sounding name, but it’s the most commonly-used term across the country to describe this type of housing. While the full name is a mouthful, the shorthand “ADU” is better.

It is an additional, self contained housing unit that is secondary to the main residence. ADU’s are sometimes referred to as “Granny Units” or “Mother-In-Law units” since many ADU’s were initially constructed to provide housing for family members. They can take many forms. In some cases, an ADU can be attached as an addition to the house, or as a second story over a garage. The garage itself may be converted to an ADU or the ADU may occupy a basement. An ADU can be a section of the main house that is separated from the main living space, or an ADU can be a stand-alone unit like a small house or cottage. The City of Santa Cruz only requires that an ADU have a kitchen, bathroom, and place to sleep.

The fact that it’s a secondary housing unit—rather than a given structural form—is what defines an ADU.. But, when we’re learning about concepts, it’s natural to want to know what that concept looks like in the flesh. We want to visually embed the design concept in our brains as a tangible object that we can mentally reference. However, ADUs vary in their physical form quite a bit, so allow me to broaden that mental model by exposing you to the range of common ADU types, in order to better understand what they are.

How many ADUs are there?

In the twelve academic studies and professionally funded surveys that have been conducted on the presence of informal ADUs, they have all found that a whopping 10-20% of all the housing units in their study area are informal ADUs. Granted, these studies were generally conducted in populated areas, such as LA, San Francisco, Portland, and Vancouver, BC, but studies have also been conducted more broadly in metropolitan areas such as the Bay Area and the Boston Metropolitan Area, and the results are the same. Could 1/10th of all residential housing stock be informal ADU type development? That means there are more than thirteen million ADUs out there.

ADU’s Offer Flexibility & Extra Space

The flexibility of accessory dwelling units allows them to serve a variety of functions as a homeowner’s needs change over time. An ADU can be a home office, a private space for guests, or an opportunity for additional rental income. It can also be a home to a family member with special needs, or an elderly relative who wants to age in place, allowing them to receive the support and care they need while retaining as much independence as possible. As with any new build or remodeling project, an accessory dwelling unit is a significant investment of both your time and money. However, after the initial build has been completed, ADUs are less costly to operate and maintain per square foot, and rental income can help to supplement mortgage costs or retirement savings. Homeowners can also benefit from increased property value and the flexibility and security that comes with having a secondary and adaptable structure that can meet their future environmental, lifestyle or financial needs.
For those looking to optimize a traditional home, an accessory dwelling unit is a great way to take advantage of existing resources, while increasing the efficiency of a property and providing extra income. We recommend working with a qualified design, construction and project management team who can help you to understand local development constraints and navigate the permit process. This trusted team can also ensure your ADU is exactly the way you imagined, delivered on time and on budget.

But before all of this, we can help you finance the whole project too! Hauser Construction is the premier contractor for the PACE financial program throughout the Northern California Area. Hauser Construction is pleased to be the premier contractor for the Pace program in the Northern California Area. Whether your project is Large or Small, we can finding you financing that will get your project started. The best part of the PACE program is that it is not tied to your personal credit. It is attached as a line item to your property taxes. which means that you you will not start paying until November of the following year. The California Pace program is a financial tool designed to help homeowners fund Energy efficient projects around their homes or in a commercial building. Call us today to schedule a consultation. It never hurts to ask.. right? Financial companies we work with: