What is an ADU?


Recently, Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) have been featured frequently in the media, particularly in news about affordable housing options. ADUs (also known as in-law suites, granny flats, and many other nicknames) have gained popularity in recent years, and as of this year, the State of California has lifted some of the restrictions on building them. So what’s the big deal? What are they, and why are people talking about them?

Put simply, ADUs are secondary units built on a single-family zoned lot. TRANSLATION: plots that are owned by single families can build a secondary unit (either attached to the house or separate) which can house an entirely new family. These units share an address with the original home, but have a separate entrance and usually a separate kitchen and bathroom as well.

Types of ADUs
The many faces of an ADU

ADUs come in several different forms. They can be:

  • Detached: These units are entirely separate from the main house. They have their own entrance, bathroom, and can be as large as the budget and/or plot size allows. 
  • Attached: These ADUs look like a new addition placed on the home. They have a separate entrance but share a wall with the main unit. These are required to match the architectural design of the original home. 
  • Garage or accessory building conversion: This is a separate or attached building, such as a garage, carriage house, pool house, or potentially a very large shed, which has been converted into an apartment. Usually, this involves adding plumbing, a bathroom and kitchen, and insulation to bring the building up to livable standards. It also might require some redecoration. 
  • Basement conversion: This includes a basement that has been converted into an apartment. Totally fine if you’re okay with having very little natural light. These are still required to have separate entrances, as all ADUs must. 

ADU example
The ADU matches the original architecture

So, why the hype? ADUs actually offer quite a few benefits to homeowners, renters, and the community. ADUs add property value to homes, which can increase future resale value. ADUs also provide the homeowner with an additional source of income from rental revenue. Who doesn’t want a little boost to their income? An alternate option is to build an ADU to provide a place for elder relatives or family to live close by. In Monterey County and Santa Cruz County, ADUs are particularly well-suited because especially on the Monterey Peninsula, there is a shortage of excess land for large developments. ADUs also offer relief for the housing crisis without radically changing neighborhood structures, utilizing more space, or detracting from neighborhood character. In the Monterey Bay area, where many cannot afford to live where they work, ADUs open up options for members of the workforce to be able to live locally and contribute to local businesses and improve schools.

Do ADUs make you excited? Over the next few weeks, Habitat for Humanity Monterey Bay and United Way Monterey County will be sharing everything you need to know about ADUs, from their benefits, costs, and current and former projects in our area, to myths and facts, and resources on how to get started with your second unit. Stay tuned and follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to learn more!