ADUforMe ONLINE Forum & FAQ
The purpose of this forum is to give ADU users, owners, or builders a place to seek answers and find community. Although we see ADUs increasingly referenced these days, they are still somewhat of an enigma as some folks think of them as small versions of big houses or house versions of cheap condos; others see them as prefab boxes; others consider them high yield income options; others see them as opportunities to provide housing for many who might not get to live (or remain) in amenity rich neighborhoods. Essentially folks come to ADUs from many and varied perspectives. As an architect I defer to the notion that in providing site specific housing, there is no one-size solution. Single family house’s backyards are always specific sites and the owners’ needs and goals are going to differ across the spectrum of ADU owners. All that being noted, however, there are definitely many things all ADUs have in common. Size and backyards being two obvious ones. Having non-developer homeowners is another.
I will kick off the forum with my takes on the common ground:
ADU size: Where will all my stuff fit? is a common reaction to size. I can definitely feel the pain of one’s attachment to their stuff. You have to be uber awake to dodge the constant temptation to consume this or that, even in the grocery store we over purchase from a make-believe reality that we will hurry home and chop and dice and simmer and produce those picture perfect morsels. Truth is, we throw away one pound of food each day! It is supremely hard to back off from the consuming we have undertaken most of our lives. Yet read any of the stories of the ones who have escaped and are living a minimalist ideal. By hearing how those few are shedding the stuff and all the stress that comes from buying and living with it, we can feel an exquisite exhale. Now this is what I am interested in: losing the drive to buy, buy, buy and replacing it with empty. Just space, and light. This is the start of right sizing your ADU.
Backyards: used to be this is where most of our urban nature living took place, where we kids were free to imagine. Today’s backyards have been usurped by rarely used designer outdoor kitchens, electric pump activated babbling brooks, and manicured landscaping. No self-respecting kid would play ‘fort’ in those bushes, do kids even know how to play ‘fort’? It seems backyards are up for a revelation. Without getting into all the social justice issues of zoning, my take on backyards is that they are gems of nature waiting to be of use once more, waiting to burst us open with imagination. Hold on to that feeling and it will guide these backyard houses toward a right fit.
Non-Developer homeowner: changing regulations in cities and municipalities across the nation have hurled hundreds upon hundreds of homeowners upon the doorstep of building a small house in their backyard. Talk about lost! ADUs wobble like Jell-O as builders and bankers drool over an untapped market. The good news here is that most of the folks peering into the ADU market are gearing up at about the same speed. Will it be the profit-seeking developer or the game-changer agency or the one-by-one builder who will slide ahead and define the future of ADUs? If I am to believe in a right sized ADU of space and light guided to land in service of an emerging societal shift, then my two cents are with the game-changer. And I do not take the lost homeowner as truly lost but rather momentarily disoriented. Here is where my decades of architecture practice and studio teaching will guide. We may all be gearing up at the same speed, but the path I take cuts directly into a world where we will want to live.
What is an ADU? ADU: Accessory Dwelling Unit, backyard house, granny flat. ADUs are basically a second house on your single family property. They can be inside your existing house or stand alone as a separate house.
Where can I find out if my property can have an ADU? ADUs are subject to zoning law. In most states these are established by your local county or city. In California and New Hampshire the state has established base ADU regulations making them legal on every single-family property in the state, local government cannot deny them. You find out what your local ADU regulations are by checking with your local planning department, it might be your county or city. Some cities and private developers have set up very cool planning tools where you can check your property’s capacity for an ADU online.
What are some resources for getting ADU information? First place to check for resources will be your local planning department, this will lead you to the specific requirements for your property. There are also many non-profit agencies dedicated to ADUs as well as university programs. Additionally you can check online for local architects and builders who specialize in ADUs. When I provide ADUforMe presentations giving the general public basic how-to information, I announce them on my local Nextdoor. You could also try MeetUp. Coming soon, ADUforMe.com will provide a comprehensive resource for all things ADU, so save the link and be sure to check back as we launch.
ADUforMe ONLINE Forum will launch with our ADUforMe.com platform. In the meantime if you have an ADU relevant subject you would like to bring up, please leave a message and I will get back to you.