What is an Accessory Dwelling Unit?
We are now offering clients in the San Diego area another valuable service: accessory dwelling unit additions (ADUs).
An accessory dwelling unit is defined as a second small dwelling located on the same grounds — or even attached to — a regular single-family home. They can include apartments over garages, multigenerational homes, tiny homes, basement and accessory apartments, secondary suites, granny flats, in-law suites, companion units, and backyard cottages.
There are three kinds of ADUs:
- Interior – housed with the main dwelling (converted basement or attic space)
- Attached – built as an addition to the main structure
- Detached – a stand-alone structure located on the same property as the main structure
There also are structures classified as Junior Accessory Dwelling Units (JADUs). They are small living units of no more than 500 square feet created in a bedroom of an existing residential home. They must include an efficiency kitchen and a separate exterior entrance/exit from the main home. JADUs can have their own small bathroom, or share a bathroom with the existing home.
Accessory dwelling units are not a new concept, but they are beginning to gain popularity again since California relaxed its restrictions in 2016 on this type of construction. The laws were further adjusted, effective January 2020, to clarify and improve on provisions to promote the development of ADUs. California has essentially required all cities to permit ADUs as long as there is enough space on the existing lot to add the structures. The new laws make it easier to obtain permits for ADUs and generally are favorable to individuals who wish to build them.
There are several benefits associated with ADUs:
- Extra income
ADUs are a popular way to bring in some extra income each month. Whether your ADU is interior, attached or detached, renting the space out is a great way to generate some extra cash.
- Affordable housing
California has the fifth-highest rent in the country. The average rent in California in 2019 ranged from $914 for a studio/efficiency to $2,166 for a four-bedroom apartment. The growing popularity of ADUs provides more affordable housing options to renters.
- Land conservation
ADUs are incredibly eco-friendly. They conserve land usage by building on spaces already zoned and used for residential housing and can be built to blend in with the current aesthetic.
- Construction cost savings
Building an ADU is significantly cheaper than new construction because the land is already developed and access to utility hookups already exists.
What Are the Various Uses for Accessory Dwelling Units?
There are many reasons people build ADUs — chief among them is the ability to gain extra income by turning the ADU into a rentable space. This could be a long-term rental or a short-term rental situation.
ADUs also can be used to provide private accommodations to the occasional overnight houseguest. Tiny homes are a great option for this.
Another popular reason for building an ADU is to house a family member — an adult child or an aging parent — creating a multigenerational home, a granny flat, an in-law suite or a companion unit. According to this study, the ability to age-in-place has created an increased need for ADUs, as has the need for housing that is accessible to individuals with disabilities.
In addition, ADUs make excellent spaces for home offices or studios. Carving out space for your passion without adding clutter to your main living space is a perfect way to use the extra room.
Why Add an ADU to Your San Diego Home?
With the recent relaxation in restrictions on this type of housing, the time has never been better for adding an accessory dwelling unit to your existing property in California.
1. Potential income
Whether renting for the short term or long term, having an ADU is a potential way to generate extra income.
2. Guest space
Give your guests — and yourself — the privacy they deserve by having an ADU for the occasional overnight guest to enjoy.
3. Increased home value
In addition to generating extra monthly income, ADUs can increase your property value by 20 to 30 percent. Detached ADUs have the most added value.
4. Family care
Older family members, family members with disabilities or those who may be recovering from an illness or injury can be close by while still maintaining some privacy with an ADU.
5. Cheaper income property alternative
Building an ADU on your existing property is a cheaper alternative to acquiring property elsewhere to rent it out.
Local ADU Zoning Laws in San Diego
California enacted a series of laws that support the development of ADUs. As of January 2020, state law permits the addition of an Accessory Dwelling Unit or a Junior Accessory Dwelling Unit for properties already zoned for residential use.
All ADUs and JADUs must comply with required fire setbacks. Homeowners who plan to build these structures are advised to contact their local fire department for information, and whether including fire sprinklers is recommended.
A complete list of zoning laws and guidelines for ADUs and JADUs is available on the County of San Diego Planning and Development Services website.
Eco Minded Expert Design Tips and Solutions
Maximizing available space is one of the most important things residential homeowners can do when adding an ADU or JADU. Choose the space for the ADU, then work with the experts at Eco Minded Solutions to construct a plan to transform it in an environmentally conscious way.
Other helpful tips for keeping eco-friendly design in mind with ADUs:
- Smaller is better. The smaller the ADU, the greener it is. If it uses interior space in an existing structure, that’s even better for reducing additional climate impact.
- Create the appearance of taller walls. Tall, skinny bookshelves are a great way to produce the illusion of height by drawing the eye upward. Choose ripple-fold curtains and hang them directly from the ceiling to emphasize height via vertical detail. Mirrors also create the illusion of a higher ceiling.
- Capture the light. Installing a glass wall in the back of an ADU is an excellent way to make use of natural light. Avoid using dark paint and keep window coverings sheer to allow light through while maintaining privacy.
- Use space wisely. Open-concept plans for ADUs and JADUs are essential for maximizing available space without creating a cramped look and feel.
- Match the main design. ADUs should match the main dwelling’s look and feel, especially if it is an interior or attached ADU. Exterior ADUs, such as tiny homes or cottages, can have a slightly different look or feel, but should still be complementary to the main house.
Build an ADU in San Diego
Let the design experts at Eco Minded Solutions create a plan for an accessory dwelling unit addition that fits your needs and existing property. From concept to completion, our award-winning team of designers and contractors will craft the perfect ADU using eco-friendly inspiration and attention to every detail. Contact us online today to schedule a free consultation.