Accessory dwelling units, or ADUs, are small living units located on the same grounds as residential housing. Due to the current economy, more and more families are banding together to help each other both financially and with domestic responsibilities. The U.S. population is aging, with nearly 20% now past retirement age. Rather than assisted living, many people are building their family members tiny homes in the backyard. Others find ADUs are perfect for young adults who are ready to leave the nest but can’t quite afford their own place.


While the use of accessory dwelling units makes perfect sense, many areas within city limits simply aren’t zoned to accommodate them. Some cities have laws concerning the value and square footage of outbuildings which can put a damper on a family’s construction plans. Luckily, forty U.S. states have recognized the need for small housing.


Portland is currently seeing historic growth in ADUs. Over two thousand homeowners have received permits to construct ADUs, and it is estimated that 85% of those permits will be fulfilled in one year.


Other than just being handy, these dwellings are a direct solution to the housing crises seen in cities like Seattle and Vancouver. Tiny homes and homes within homes are expanding the housing market in these areas and affording independence to those who otherwise wouldn’t be able to live alone due to health and other issues.


Cover, a startup in Los Angeles, hopes that the introduction of ADUs into the mainstream market will do more than just increase the supply of affordable housing. They hope that increasing the supply will also drive down the price of living in large cities where the price of housing has skyrocketed. Of course, they do require a $20,000 deposit on their builds. Their designs aren’t simple. They actually borrow their machine methods from the aerospace and automotive industries and apply algorithms to suit their clients’ needs.


ADUs come in many fashions. From chic granny pads to swanky home offices, accessory dwelling units serve a multitude of purposes. Perhaps the best design feature is the way that they are keeping families together. Cities like Portland, Vancouver, and Seattle are leading the nation in ADUs, which could in turn lead the nation in fostering close knit families and promoting the arts. Graduates may find themselves in less debt, and fewer will go homeless. The square footage may be small, but the possibilities are huge.