What Are ADUs, and Why Do They Matter?

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Single-family homes and condos are not the only available housing options; in past years, tiny homes and buses have become popular alternative options. Another one is ADUs.

ADUs, or accessory dwelling units, go by many names: granny flats, in-law units, backyard cottages, secondary units, laneway houses, carriage houses, accessory apartments and more. These living quarters are a second, smaller residential dwelling unit located on the same property as the primary house. Think of them as an accessory to the main house; they are smaller and have the same amenities (kitchen, bathroom and sleeping area).

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Benefits of ADUs

The main reason for having an ADU is to provide additional housing. Much like condos or apartments, ADUs are good for all manner of people: couples, small families, young adults, seniors. Most ADUs are for family members or friends who need a place to stay without being in the main house, which creates a multi-generational living space. They can also benefit live-in caretakers or nannies.

ADUs provide autonomy and privacy for both homes while increasing the living space on the property. In turn, they are usually affordable and can be a source of income for the homeowner. Since ADUs are part of the same property as the main house, they can’t be bought or sold separately, but they can increase the property’s worth.

ADUs are often in high demand in states where housing is limited or expensive, such as California. However, due to their unique nature, ADUs have to be zoned properly, which can affect an owner’s ability to have an ADU. For example, ADUs are outlawed in New York City.

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Types of ADUs

There are three types of ADUs: detach, additions/attached and internals/interior.

Detached ADUs are usually located in the backyard and away from the main house to offer additional privacy. These units are usually called backyard cottages, laneway houses or granny flats.

Additions/attached ADUs are added to the original house; they usually require some renovation and construction work. They are often called addition ADUs or bump-out ADUs.

Perhaps the most common type is internals/interior ADUs. These units are a part of the house that is converted to an ADU. This includes garage, basement and attic conversions or ADUs located above a garage or a workshop. Internals/interior ADUs go by many names: garage apartments, carriage houses, basement apartments, attic apartments, in-law units, secondary suites, English basements and accessory apartments.

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