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5 Things Every Homeowner Needs to Know Before They Build an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU)

Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) are back in vogue with the rise of urbanization, and many cities are looking at how to accommodate housing needs. ADUs can be an excellent option for homeowners who find themselves on the fence about whether or not they want to sell their property. California ADU laws were written to help ease the current affordable housing issues. Accessory dwelling units typically provide more space than an apartment. Still, they are smaller than a single-family home, perfect for those who don’t want to maintain too much outdoor space. An ADU can provide permanent provisions for extended family or elderly parents needing affordable rentals. If you’re considering building an ADU on your property in Los Angeles, here are five things you should know before moving forward!

ADU Laws and Regulations

Since 2017, California State law has changed significantly. Multiple bills to make it easier for a single-family residence to add an ADU. Five bills made effective on January 1, 2020, have considerably streamlined the ADU construction and building permit approval process. If the ADU meets specific requirements, ADU design and construction is now exempt from California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) review.  The new laws also require less parking for ADUs, allow single-family homeowners to build their ADUs before they sell or demolish their main house, lift height restrictions on ADUs within a half-mile of public transit lines with frequent service during peak commute times, and reduce local fees associated with building an ADU.

Although Los Angeles has not passed any bills since 2017, there are still many ADU regulations you will need to follow depending on your location in L.A County.  The city council may require you to submit blueprints and plans before starting construction, as well as receive approval from your local ADU committee.  What’s more, if you need to demolish your main house to make room for the ADU, there are additional requirements and fees associated with this process that must be met before any demolition can begin on your property. The National Fire Protection Association has worked with the City of Los Angeles to ensure that any California state law does not compromise fire safety during the current housing crisis.

Types of ADUs

Garage Conversions

In ADU terms, a garage conversion is an ADU that occupies the same footprint as your main house.  You can convert one or more of your existing garages to create additional living space on your property without having to tear down any walls. This type of ADU may be perfect for you if you have limited yard space and need extra storage but still want enough room inside for a full kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, and living area.  We recommend this option because it’s less expensive than building new construction while also providing homeowners with more flexibility when designing their ADUs floor plans compared to other types of ADUs.

Home Conversion

An accessory dwelling unit can be a converted area of the existing primary residence, with its kitchen and bathroom.   In Los Angeles, this ADU type is often created by taking a portion of the owner-occupied living area and converting it to another form of housing.  It may be possible, for example, to convert your attic or basement into an ADU unit, depending on how much space you have available.  In some cases, homeowners already have enough room for building ADUs, which allows them to avoid construction costs altogether!

Detached ADU (DADU)

A detached ADU typically requires more outdoor space than other ADUs because there must be adequate separation between two dwelling units. A detached ADU might take many forms, such as a cottage-style house that’s separate from the primary dwelling but still located on the same property or a separate building that’s connected to your primary home with an electric door.  A DADU is also known as a Granny Flat in some parts of the country and allows homeowners to create ADUs without tearing down their existing structure.

Garage Addition

A new unit that shares at least one wall with the garage. Units can be built above the garage.    This ADU type is very similar to a garage conversion but typically requires more outdoor space.  It may be possible, for example, to convert your entire garage into another living unit if you have enough room on your property or use the existing two-car garage or covered parking structure and add one additional bedroom above it.

Home Addition

A unit that shares at least one wall with the existing primary dwelling.   As with ADUs, homeowners can convert an attic or basement to create ADUs.  Another option is to build on top of your existing home, which requires working within your building’s architecture and foundation system.

Junior Accessory Dwelling Unit (JADU)

A Junior ADU of 500 square feet can be built within a proposed or existing single-family home or accessory structure.  A Junior ADU is also known as a Nanny Flat or an ADU Studio and can be built inside your primary residence or created by converting existing space into new living quarters.  A JADU typically offers homeowners with less outdoor space to work with the chance to build ADUs on their property without having to construct anything new.

ADU Standard Plan – Streamlining the Building Process

The Standard Plan Program will dramatically streamline the process for homeowners of selecting and getting an Accessory Dwelling Unit design approved by LADBS while at the same time supporting the work of Los Angeles architects and extending the City’s rich tradition of innovation in residential architecture,” said Christopher Hawthorne, Chief Design Officer for the City of Los Angeles.  This Accessory Dwelling Unit type is perfect for homeowners who want to build ADUs in their City but don’t have the time or patience to design and develop ADUs themselves.  The Standard Plan Program allows you to work with a City-approved set of ADU plans, pay an application fee and get your ADU approved much faster than other types of ADUs and utilizes a!

ADU Permits – How Much Will They Cost?

ADU permits typically cost between $1,800 and $8,000 in Los Angeles. This cost will vary project by project and is determined by the estimated value of the construction being performed and the number of square feet your project adds to the property. ADU permits are also subject to ADU Floor Area Ratio (FAR) limitations.  The ADU FAR is the ratio of the total floor area of all ADUs on your property compared with the square footage of your primary home. The higher the ADU FAR, the more you can build!

Why Are ADU’s So Popular Now?

Several factors are converging to make these tiny homes a big attraction. For starters, ADUs increase housing diversity in already-developed residential neighborhoods, often adding much-needed affordable housing solutions that take advantage of existing square footage. ADUs are also a solution for homeowners who want to downsize while staying in their neighborhood; they can design an ADU to meet their needs, then rent out the primary residence. ADUs are also popular among homeowners because they add property value while creating an opportunity for passive income. Recent changes to California ADU laws are making the process more accessible than ever.

Another factor contributing to the popularity of ADUs is the increasing interest in multi-generational living and accommodating ill and aging family members. A 2018 survey by AARP found that adults over 50 are interested in ADUs mainly for friends or relatives who need care or are looking for a new place to live. Younger families pursue ADUs as a possible place for aging relatives, either a permanent dwelling or a comfortable place to accommodate extended visits. ADUs are also being considered for caregiver dwellings.

Another aspect of how homeowners receive benefits is to generate rental income and receive stable rental payments.

Wrapping It All Up!

Homeowners in Los Angeles are faced with an affordability crisis when it comes to housing. Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) can be an excellent option for homeowners who find themselves on the fence about whether or not they want to sell their property. ADUs typically provide more space and rental income than an apartment. Still, they are smaller than a single-family home, which is perfect for those who don’t want to maintain too much outdoor space. If you’re considering building an ADU on your property, here’s what you need to know before getting started! Call AXE Construction today, the #1 Consumer Rated ADU builder in LA, and let us take care of all the heavy lifting so you can focus on enjoying your new living quarters without worry

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