Today we are faced with many factors regarding population and space. Unfortunately as the amount of people continues to grow, the size of our planet does not. Thankfully, Oregon is one state that is taking measures to increase urban density and mitigate suburban sprawl, through the gaining popularity of allowing ADU’s, or Accessory Dwelling Units to be built on sites with an existing “main” residence.
An Accessory Dwelling Unit can be created on almost any single-family residential lot in any of the 25 cities in the Metro area. It can be attached, such as over a garage, or detached, as in a separate living unit in the same plot as your home. ADU’s are limited to be no greater than 800 square feet, and smaller than the existing house. “Granny flat” or “basement apartment” are also names for ADU’s. An ADU is a great way to help reflect the changing needs of homeowners, especially with the increase of one and two person family units. They can provide added source of income, through renting, as well as allowing the family to be closer, if a grandparent or other family member moves in.
According to the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), reducing housing size is “the most effective way to reduce both material and energy related impacts of residential homes.” Smaller homes use fewer materials, less energy, create less waste, and increase density within the city. By containing the sprawl of new construction, we can induce more significant change in energy used per capita.
There are some simple steps to follow if you are considering building an ADU, or are trying to figure out if it is the right decision. Funding, of course is a major factor in any new construction. There are new incentives offered through the Energy Trust of Oregon (ETO), as they have allowed detached ADU’s to qualify for full home incentives. A rebate check of up to 4,000 dollars can be obtained for highly energy efficient homes. Talking to city planners and visiting the planning and zoning staff at the cities Development Services Center is also important, considering you may need an inspection of the existing structure. Acquiring an architect to help with the design and plans is also crucial. Finding a builder as well as various subcontractors is important; plumbing, mechanical, and electrical are three you will definitely need. Providing the city with drawings and subsequently obtaining a permit for construction is the final step before building can begin.
If you think that building an ADU is the right choice for you and your family there are a few websites that can help you to easily analyze your decision as well as getting started. The following are three specific to the city of Portland. Also on October 26 there is going to be a summit called “Build Small/Live Large: A Market Revival for Single Family Housing.” Builders, developers, designers, and real estate professionals will be discussing many topics including; ADU’s, demographic shifts, financing, incentives, zoning, policy, and small housing trends.