An accessory dwelling unit (ADU) is a smaller, independent residential dwelling unit located on the same lot as a stand-alone (i.e., detached) single-family home. ADUs go by many different names throughout the U.S., including accessory apartments, secondary suites, and granny flats.
ADUs are innovative and affordable housing options specially in California. It is a secondary housing unit that differs in physical form. ADUs could be converted portions of a home, additions to a new or existing home, or standalone structure. No matter what the type, these units have the potential for increasing housing affordability and create a wide range of housing options within the community. It allows sensors to stay near their family or facilitate better use of an existing housing fabric in a pre-established neighborhood.
When getting an ADU constructed, homeowners must always keep some dos and don’ts  in mind. For instance, these units are slightly bigger than tiny houses. They are no more than 800 square feet as per most zoning laws. ADUs aren’t a new concept at all. They are a modern spin of granny flats. Call them self-contained dwelling on the main house with a separate bath, kitchen as well as entrance.
How Does an ADU Look Like?
When you see its exterior, it looks like a tiny version of the main house. Homeowners like it this way and some cities require the ADU to match the exterior of the main house and follow some other construction guidelines. However, some cities are getting more relaxed on this requirement.
So what if you don’t have much liberty to design the exterior, you have complete liberty when it comes to the interior. Since you would have limited space, consider open rooms instead of enclosed ones and skip the idea of hallways. For a more spacious feel, homeowners prefer vaulted ceilings and high windows in their AUDs. This allows more natural light to fall into the unit, making it look spacious.
Types of ADUs
There are primary types of ADUs:
1. Interior ADU
This unit is located in a primary dwelling. The interior is built from an existing converted space (could be an attic or basement). These units are great for houses with two entrances and you don’t use all the space.
2. Attached ADU
These units adjoin the primary dwelling either to the side or the rear. Some even like to have the unit constructed on the top of an attached garage. This type of unit is an ideal option for those who want a separate house but would prefer keeping their children or near them. You can also give an attached ADU for rent and make additional income.
3. Detached ADU
Call this a standalone structure, which is separate from the primary dwelling. This type of unit is constructed as a separate unit. You can also get it built over an existing accessory structure. These units can also be given for rent to make extra money.
Why ADU’s are Becoming Popular?
The need for affordable houses for a multi-generational living is one of the factors that contribute to the growing popularity of these units. Even many local governments are onboard to support the ADU trend. They are readily giving permits, making it easier for homeowners to build a separate unit on their existing property.
People who can’t afford to buy a home right away are considering ADUs as potential property. They can be used for aging parents or grown-up children who would like to have a separate place with more privacy, independence, and comfort. No wonder the trend of ADUs is rising !
Homeowners searching for another source of income find ADUs as a rental attractive. They can have a smaller ADU constructed on their dream home. There are two ways to go about it. Either rent the ADU or stay in the ADU yourself and rent the entire house to cover its mortgage.
California ADU Program
The state of California has enacted several laws for supporting the development of ADUs. With the help of the California ADU program, homeowners have been able to convert their garages and backyard buildings into living spaces that can be used by the tenants or family members.
This program has another important objective which is to make the best use of the urban space. San Diego, Pasadena, Shasta Lake, Inglewood, San Francisco, La Mesa, and a few other cities are offering privileges to homeowners wanting to construct ADUs.
Other cities have restrictions of construction mainly because of the limited availability of housing space. For example, there are regulations on the maximum size of an ADU. The Department of Housing and Community Development in California allows up to 1,200 sq. ft. for a single ADU . The size requirements differ in other cities.
There is an extreme shortage of housing space in California. On top of that is the rising value of the existing land. Most of the space has been consumed for building amenities and other buildings. Since every inch of land available is precious, the authorities have decided the existing space should not go to waste. In a situation like this, ADUs are a living lining to many.
Getting a Permit for ADU
Before you drive straight into planning the construction of an ADU on your house, you must get an ADU permit . It’s not allowed to start construction without getting one.
There are two parts of applying for a permit. Part one is applying to get approval that your unit meets the basic zoning requirements including location, size, parking. Part two is applying to get a building permit for the construction work required. You might need other permits as well.
ADUs are a part of an existing structure of the home. They cannot be sold or bought separately. The use of an ADU varies from one individual to another. Nevertheless, these units are a great investment whether you want to rent them out or keep them for personal use .
What you should keep in mind, designing and building an Accessory Dwelling Unit is a large, complex investment. You need someone who knows the ADU laws and has expertise in designing and installing smaller structures. Most builders and home contractors don’t know the ADU code requirements well enough, causing delays and costly mistakes.