Most Common Myths About ADUs: Debunked
Myths About ADUs
Did you ever wonder what are the most common myths about ADUs?
An accessory dwelling unit (ADU) is a smaller house that’s on the same plot as a bigger, primary residence. That means that by building an ADU in your backyard, you have an opportunity to share your independent living areas with other people.
Most of the time, those other people are your family, relatives, or friends. Hence the many names of ADUs:
- granny flats
- in-law suits
- mother-daughter houses
- Boomerang kids’ houses
However, some property owners rent their additional living spaces to strangers to get an extra income.
Either way, ADUs are a wonderful way to get more living space on your lot.
Over the past few years, ADUs have become increasingly popular in California. That’s especially true in densely populated areas such as the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles area, as well as the San Jose area.
Yet, even with that rise in popularity, ADUs are still somewhat of an infamous concept. Plenty of people believe in most common myths about ADUs, which is why they are missing out on a great opportunity.
So, today, we’re debunking the most common myths and misconceptions about ADUs. Let’s get started, shall we?
ADUs in California — Myths about ADUs vs. the Reality
There are plenty of myths about ADUs floating around. However, four of them are the most prevalent:
- I can’t build an ADU because the law won’t let me.
- ADUs can’t solve the housing crisis.
- More ADUs will cause overcrowding in neighborhoods.
- ADUs are cheap gimmicks that you can’t live in.
None of these are true. But let’s see just how untrue they are.
Myth #1: Rules and Regulations Are Working Against Me
It’s no secret that not that long ago, state laws favored single-family homes over anything else. There were plenty of rules and regulations regarding building ADUs in place. Most of them had to do with lot size, distance from the primary residence, as well as where the owner lived.
What’s more, when it comes to permits, ADUs were almost a living nightmare for most homeowners and builders. They took forever to obtain, which left most people discouraged to even try.
The Truth: Californian Laws Are Constantly Changing (in Your Favor)
Although zoning regulations are different for each area, generally speaking, Californian laws are changing in favor of ADUs. The California legislature improved so much that building an ADU is no longer a lengthy process. Now, thanks to Assembly Bill 3182, it takes only 60 days to get a permit approved and start building on your property.
Moreover, the California Department of Housing and Community Development and the California legislature declared ADUs an effective additional housing solution. So, they are doing everything they can to ensure more single-family home lot owners are allowed to build extra living space.
As a way of addressing California’s increasing housing needs in highly developed, diverse, job-rich areas, ADUs and JADUs are getting green-lighted more than ever before.
Aside from that, new laws are making things much easier on homeowners.
Not that long ago, you couldn’t build an ADU unless you were either living in it or living in the primary residence on the lot. Furthermore, you couldn’t have both an ADU and a JADU on the same lot. Similarly, your HOA could have blocked your ADU-building dreams before you even got started.
Today, things are different. You no longer have to jump through hoops to get a permit, and you can build your ADU much more quickly.
Myth #2: ADUs Can’t Solve the Housing Crisis
There’s an excellent reason why laws and regulations are continually changing in your favor. ADUs are an ideal way to address the housing crisis in California. Therefore, the state is pushing for more single-family home lot owners to build ADUs alongside their primary residences.
We’ve already talked about this at great length. But there are still plenty of naysayers who are doubting the power of ADUs.
More and more people are coming to California. So, the current housing market is on the brink of collapsing. There isn’t enough room for everyone, which is why new housing needs to be added. That way, the supply can meet the demand.
But where do ADUs come in? Well, new housing options have to meet peoples’ needs. New buyers and renters aren’t necessarily looking for huge one-family homes. Instead, they need something more affordable.
ADUs seem like the perfect solution. But some still believe otherwise.
The Truth: ADUs in California Are the Answer to the Lack of Affordable Housing
ADUs are smaller than traditional homes. So, naturally, they are more affordable, rent-wise. What’s more, they meet the needs (financial and in terms of space) of many people:
- small families
- older adults who want to be closer to their relatives
- people looking to downsize
- people looking for extra space (like an office)
So, naturally, plenty of people will often opt for renting ADUs rather than renting something else. After all, ADUs are cheaper to rent and maintain.
That, on its own, won’t solve the housing crisis. However, more ADUs that meet the buyers’ and renters’ needs might drive down the staggering (and sometimes appalling) overall prices of houses currently on the market. That means that more of the housing market will be within reach of those looking for affordable housing.
Well, not entirely, of course. But that doesn’t change the fact that ADUs could significantly help solve the lack of affordable crisis in California.
Myth #3: ADUs Will Overcrowd the Neighborhoods
A neighborhood with 100 single-family homes will have 200 cars and around 294 people, right?
Although the average household size in California is 2.94 people, our fictional 100-house neighborhood still wouldn’t have only 294 residents. Sometimes adult kids come back home, or we have an older family member we’d like to come live with us. Life doesn’t really care for the American dream; it happens anyway, and we have to adjust.
The fear anti-ADU people have is that by creating additional “homes within homes,” neighborhoods will get overcrowded. But that’s only due to the nationwide fear of overcrowding that happened after World War II.
Back in the 50s, single-family homes were the only projects that could get a building permit. All zoning laws that came into effect were exclusionary when it came to ADUs and other additional living units.
Remember, ADUs aren’t a modern invention. People have been building them and living in them for centuries.
However, the 50s brought with them the idea that a single-family home on a single lot was a vital part of the American dream. There was no room for multigenerational living, which is why zoning laws practically made it impossible for ADUs to be built.
The Truth: The Increase In Population Has Already Happened
A report by Freddie Mac says that there are currently 1.4 million ADUs in the United States. Furthermore, their production steadily grows by 8.6% every year.
So, the ADU revolution is happening.
But why? Well, primarily to address the growing demand.
The reports from 2020 show a 12.7% increase in chronically unsheltered people in California. Back in 2017, that number was around 15,000. That was actually one of the reasons for the ADU laws and regulations to get overhauled.
So, essentially, the overcrowding that is the core of this myth has already happened. Still, if there are more ADUs built and rented (at affordable prices), unsheltered people will have stable, affordable, sustainable homes.
Furthermore, a survey done by the AARP back in 2018 found that most people built ADUs to accommodate family and relatives. In other words, someone they would house in their own home. So, ADUs mainly house people who would “overcrowd” the neighborhood anyway.
What’s more, instead of building the ADUs, people could just rent out rooms in their homes. That would lead to the same increase of people but without any of the benefits that ADUs offer.
Just to refresh everyone’s memories, ADUs:
- provide extra space with more privacy
- make use of existing infrastructure
- are built in a way that compliments the existing residence (and doesn’t clash with the neighborhood)
- are environmentally-friendly
Myth #4: ADUs are Cheap, Gimmick Products
The US has that “the bigger, the better” attitude. So, a lot of people think these tiny houses are just gimmicks that aren’t precisely livable.
The American dream we already mentioned a few times usually meant having a lovely house for your perfect 2.5 kids, a white picket fence, and a car in your garage. It’s what plenty of people are dreaming of, even in today’s economy.
Back in the 50s, when that dream was viable, the average single-family home was almost twice as small as the one today. Our American dream kept on expanding. Today, the average Californian home has anywhere between 1150 and 2417 square feet.
That’s pretty big. So, it’s logical that today, some people see tiny homes as somewhat of a gimmick. After all, you couldn’t possibly fit everything you might need for a “normal” life into a small house that’s half the size of what you dream of, right?
Wrong, of course.
The Truth: They Are More Affordable Than Regular Houses, But Durable and Sustainable
In reality, the average size of ADUs can be anywhere between 600 and 1200 square feet. However, that’s not all. ADUs are, by definition, self-sufficient living spaces. They have a living and sleeping space as well as a separate kitchen and bathroom area.
Therefore, again by definition, ADUs are perfectly able to be comfortable living spaces. Just because they are smaller than the (unnecessarily) large family homes doesn’t mean they aren’t suitable for living.
But because they are so small, they can usually accommodate:
- two or three-person families
- high school or college students
- boomerang kids
- elderly in-laws
Still, no matter who’s living in the ADU, they’ll have a fully functional home.
Cedar Does More Than Just Bust Myths about ADUs
Are you looking to become a proud owner of an ADU in California? Well, now you have enough data to make an educated decision. ADUs have many benefits; it would be a shame to miss out on owning one due to misinformation.
If you have any other questions, the Cedar team is more than happy to help. Book your consultation today, and let’s chat about ADUs and the possibility of you owning one. It’s our favorite topic!