ADU – Accessory Dwelling Unit

Should you convert your garage into livable space

Written by Mary Van Keuren

You may have never heard of ADUs but we bet you’ve seen them. ADU stands for “accessory dwelling unit,” and these small living spaces go by many names. You may know them as in-law suites, granny flats, tiny homes, or more.

So what is an ADU? It’s a secondary living space that is placed on a lot that also includes a primary home, usually a single family dwelling or sometimes a duplex. An ADU can be attached to that main dwelling, or it may be in a separate structure such as a garage. It is usually self-contained, with a kitchen, living space, bedroom(s) and bathroom.

ADUs have been around for a long time, but recently they’ve been receiving a lot of attention. One 2020 study suggests that their numbers grew by an average of 8.6% each year between 2009 and 2018, with the fastest growth seen in Sun Belt states like California and Florida.

What makes ADUs so popular

  • ADUs are popular with older adults who are downsizing and want to live near their children but maintain their independence. With 54 million Americans aged 65 or older, this growing population demographic needs housing.
  • Zoning regulations, especially in crowded urban areas that lack housing options, are slowly becoming more favorable to ADUs, allowing them to play a role in more effective utilization of home lots.
  • Prices on everything from food to car insurance are increasing, and homeowners can offset that by renting out ADUs to tenants.
  • The rise of short-term rental units, facilitated by companies such as AirB&B, make urban ADUs especially appealing.

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