Industry News

What is an ADU? Tiny Houses with a Big Impact

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Wind River

April 24, 2024

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As cities become more crowded and affordable housing options grow, many homeowners are looking for ways to maximize the living space on their property. One solution that has gained popularity in residential areas in recent years is the accessory dwelling unit (ADU).

So what is an ADU, and what is it most commonly used for?

An accessory dwelling unit is a secondary, self-contained living space on a single-family home property. ADUs have their own entrance, kitchen, and bathroom, and can also be referred to as granny flats, backyard cottages, or in-law suites.

Types of ADU's

There are several types of ADUs, including detached, attached, and interior ADUs. Keep in mind that regardless of the style of your accessory dwelling unit, you may not be able to add one to your property.

Different states, cities, and municipalities have variable regulations regarding whether they will allow you to add an ADU to your property. We’ll dive more into ADU regulations shortly, but for now, let’s review the three main types of housing units and ADU classifications.

Detached ADUs

Detached ADUs are separate structures from the main house and can be built in the backyard or on a separate part of the same property. These structures can be built on-site, modular-style, or in some cases, a tiny home on wheels (THOW).

Attached ADUs

An Attached ADU is connected to the main house and can be built as an addition or by converting existing space, such as garage conversions.

Interior ADUs

Interior or internal ADUs are created by converting existing infrastructure within the main house, such as a basement apartment or attic.

Each type of ADU has its own benefits and considerations, so choosing the one that best fits your needs and property is essential.

ADU Regulations: Is a Tiny Home an ADU?

One question often arises when discussing ADUs is whether a tiny home on wheels can be considered an ADU. The term “ADU” describes the home’s functionality, not the building class.

With this in mind, yes, tiny homes and tiny homes on wheels can be ADUs. Whether or not you can have an accessory dwelling unit on your property, THOW or otherwise, depends on the specific regulations of your city or municipality.

For example, a permanent foundation may be required, so you would need to go the modular tiny home route instead of a tiny home on wheels.

10 Things to check on when considering an ADU

Before you start your journey with adding an ADU to your property, there are some essential things you should check on.

  1. Local Zoning Regulations: Check the local zoning regulations to determine if ADUs are allowed in your area and, if so, what the requirements are for size, location, and design.
  2. Building Codes: Ensure that your ADU meets all relevant building codes, including fire safety codes, electrical codes, and plumbing codes.
  3. Permitting Requirements: Check the permitting requirements for your area. You may need to obtain a building and/or zoning permit before adding an ADU to your property.
  4. Lot Size Requirements: Some areas have lot size requirements that must be met before an ADU can be added to a property.
  5. Parking Requirements: An often forgotten restriction is the parking requirements for your area. Some areas require a certain number of parking spaces for each dwelling unit, including ADUs.
  6. Homeowners Association (HOA) Rules: If you live in a community with an HOA, check the rules to determine if ADUs are allowed in your community.
  7. Historic Districts: If your property is located in a historic district, there may be additional restrictions or requirements that must be met before an ADU can be added.
  8. Legal Requirements: Ensure that your ADU meets all the legal requirements for your area, including any restrictions on renting or leasing the unit.
  9. Utility Requirements: Check the utility requirements for your area, including water, sewer, and electricity. You may need to obtain additional permits or upgrade your utility systems before adding an ADU.
  10. Accessibility Requirements: Check the accessibility requirements for your area, including requirements for wheelchair accessibility, if applicable. Check that your placement site is navigable for the dimensions of the THOW or modular tiny home to be delivered.
    Don’t let a missed restriction put an unexpected roadblock on your plans!

5 Benefits of Accessory Dwelling Units

Truly a good investment that will give positive returns, ADUs can benefit you and your property in many ways.

  1. They can increase the value of your property by providing additional living space. This can be especially beneficial if you live in a high-demand area with expensive housing.
  2. ADUs can provide a source of rental income for property owners, which can help offset the cost of your mortgage or other expenses.
  3. They can house an elderly family member, a live-in nanny, or be a guest house.
  4. Have a home office or art studio? Turn your ADU into the office or studio of your dreams!
  5. And maybe the most important benefit, ADUs can provide flexibility and versatility in how you use your property, allowing you to accommodate changing needs and lifestyles over time.

A Tiny Home on Wheels Could be Your Next ADU

Whether you want to provide additional space for family members, offer rental housing, or gain a home office or studio, an ADU could be your solution!

If you want a tiny home or THOW added to your property as an ADU, Wind River Tiny Homes can help you get started. Through our collaborative design-and-build process, we can build your ADU to match the aesthetics of the existing home, save you and your neighbors the noise and disruption of a lengthy site-built project, and get you set up in a fraction of the time!

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