The definition of an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) can vary based on location, but in general it is a secondary house or apartment on the same lot as a main house. Usually the ADU will have it’s own bathroom, kitchen, living area, and a separate entrance from the primary home. ADUs are often called Granny Flats, In-Law Suites, Secondary Suites, Guesthouses, and Laneway Houses.
On June 19, 2018, the City Council in San Jose, California, approved changes to ADU regulations that make it easer to build an ADU within the city. ADUs, or accessory dwelling units, are defined by the city as “small living units, including a kitchen and bathroom, on a property that has a single-family home.”
The city claims the the new policy will lead to multiple benefits, including increasing the amount of affordable housing in the community, providing homeowners with an income opportunity, encouraging public transportation, and providing a way for extended families or families with members who are disabled, to live closer together.
Some of the changes to the existing regulations include changing the minimum lot size necessary from 5,445 sf to 3000 sf, allowing an ADU in a second story, and allowing two bedrooms rather than just studio or one bedroom units.
This 500 square foot tiny house on a foundation is located in the backyard of another house in Tampa Bay, Florida, and is meant as an in-law suite.
Home Care Suites is the builder, and they offer help figuring out the rules for accessory units for property located in the areas they serve, and also offer to help their clients meet all zoning requirements, including matching the siding and roofing to the main house.
On September 24, 2014, Jared Whitlock of the Encintas Advocate wrote about how the city of Encinitas in San Diego County, is looking to legalize any granny flats that were built or converted before the city’s incorporation in 1986.
Granny flats — so named by Australian builders constructing smaller backyard dwellings for homeowners’ elderly relatives — are considered a source of affordable housing. So, if a large number were to be legalized, the city would have to plan for fewer units.
The units have to meet building and fire codes, and include a kitchen sink and bathroom, to be eligible for the amnesty program. And the owner must agree for the unit to be “set aside in perpetuity for low-income residents.”
“It is recognized that many illegal units which were constructed prior to the incorporation of the city provide affordable housing that may not otherwise be available,” the city’s policy states.
“a form of housing that is gaining popularity on the west coast of Canada, especially in the Metro Vancouver area. These homes are typically built into pre-existing lots, usually in the backyard and opening onto the back lane.”
Laneway houses were introduced to increase density in existing neighborhoods, and average about 550 square feet. Regulations typically require they be built behind an existing house, on the back-half of the lot. The hope is to retain the feel of a single-family neighborhood, while not compromising the privacy of the nearby neighbors, and to add much needed housing to the area.
One of the best laneway houses on the web was built by Smallworks in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, and is 1.5 stories, and 500 square feet. Known as the West Coast Modern, it’s a beautiful tiny house, perfectly sized for a couple, and has a fairly large balcony next to the bed. The house also includes a one-car garage on the bottom half.