As a part of its efforts to support affordable housing, the City of Reno is developing an ordinance that could allow for accessory dwelling units.

An ADU, also commonly referred to as a granny flat or in-law quarters, is a residential unit built on the same parcel as an existing single-family home. While ADUs may be attached or detached to the main home on the property, fully functional living facilities, including a kitchen, are included in these type of units. "ADUs provide an opportunity to diversify affordability in a neighborhood by allowing rental units for extended families or other members of the public. ADUs not only give renters additional affordable living options in neighborhoods that are traditionally focused on single family homes, they also provide income to the homeowners," Claudia Hanson, City of Reno Planning Manager, said.

Throughout the ReImagine Reno Master Plan public process, participants expressed support for ADUs within certain neighborhoods and under certain design standards. 
Of those participants expressed support for ADUs about half would use for relatives and about half would use for income property.

The Rise of the Accessory Dwelling Unit - Where affordable housing is scarce, these secondary homes may be the answer. The idea behind accessory dwelling units is hardly new. "It used to be the case that it was quite normal to have someone living above the garage or in the basement," says Patrick Quinton, CEO of Portland, Ore.-based Dweller, which builds ADUs in a factory so that on-site construction takes only 30 days. In fact, Thomas Jefferson lived in basically an ADU while Monticello was being built, says Eli Spevak, co-founder of and an affordable housing developer in Portland, Ore.

So-called mother-in-law units grew at a time when multigenerational living was more common, but in cities people replaced the little home in the back with garages. Interest in ADUs is rising at a time when the average family size has fallen to an all-time low of 2.6 individuals.

How big should an ADU be?
Most municipalities limit ADUs to 800 square feet. For a rental, a two-bedroom, 800-square-foot ADU makes sense, says Steve Vallejos, president and CEO of Valley Home Development, which has built more than 100 ADUs in the Bay Area in the last 12 years and aims to build 100 more in 2018.

Which buyers may be most interested?
"An ADU works well for small households just getting started and for empty nesters who are downsizing and want to stay in their neighborhoods," says ADU developer Eli Spevak. They're also good for people who need the rental income to live in a pricier neighborhood. And ADUs are good for older people who want to age in place. (They can rent out their main house and live in the small one.) However, most municipalities do not allow owners to rent out both dwellings, which is important information to share with prospective buyers. This rule helps prevent ADUs from "disturbing neighborhood character," says David Garcia, policy director of the Terner Center for Housing Innovation at the University of California, Berkeley. Sometimes divorced couples choose this option-one in the main house and one in an ADU in the backyard-because it's easier with kids and saves money.

How much do they cost?
The average cost is $156,000, according to the Terner Center at the University of California, Berkeley. With a do-it-yourself kit, a homeowner can build one for as little as $50,000. Typically, it costs about $130 per square foot with a kit and up to $200 per square foot with a contractor. Homeowners who rent out their ADU typically pay off their costs in seven to 10 years. "They kind of pay for themselves twice," says Lucas Gray, a designer at Portland-based architecture firm Propel Studio, noting the potential rental income and increased property value.

Kelly Richmond