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Santa Cruz County


August 25, 2022

Santa Cruz County


August 25, 2022

Table of Contents

Santa Cruz, California


Santa Cruz's ADU code has been amended to comply with recent state regulations. The most recent specifications for approving an ADU in this community are listed below.


To find out if you qualify and how big an ADU you can put up on your land, use the Eligibility Tool on the ADU website. To determine whether a lot complies with the Santa Cruz County Code's (section 13.10.681) standards for ADU accommodation, the tool extracts the pertinent information from the County's GIS database.

The County Planning Department can confirm the results of the eligibility tool by contacting them at or (831)-454-2130.


Single Unit Dwelling

  • One (1) ADU – within the existing space of the property
  • One (1) JADU per lot

Multiple Unit Lot

  • 25% of existing units or one (1) unit, whichever is greater
  • Two (2) detached ADUs


  • JADU: Minimum 150 sq ft, maximum 500 sf
  • Conversion ADU: Minimum 150 sq ft, no maximum size
  • New Construction ADU: Minimum 150 sq ft, maximum based on parcel size


Maximum Height

  • Attached ADUs: standard for the zone district (usually 28 feet)
  • Detached ADUs outside the Urban Services Line: standard for the zone district (usually 28 feet)
  • Detached ADUs inside the Urban Services Line: 16 feet (21 feet allowed with Zoning Administrator approval)
  • ADUs above Detached Garages inside the Urban Services Line: 24 feet at roof peak, 20 feet at top of exterior wall


Minimum Lot Size

  • No minimum. ADUs greater than 800 sq. ft. are required to provide the minimum open space requirements of the underlying zoning district of the project site.

Maximum Lot Size

  • The ADU shall not exceed the maximum lot coverage of the underlying zoning district of the project site; however, lot coverage shall not be imposed for attached or detached ADUs less than 800 sq. ft.


New Construction ADUs have special setbacks and height standards that define the building envelope for these structures.

Minimum Setbacks from Property Line

  • Minimum front setbacks: standard for the zone district
  • Minimum side setbacks: 4 feet
  • Minimum rear setbacks: 4 feet for building height up to 16 feet, 8 feet for building height over 16 feet
  • Minimum separation between ADU and other structures: 3 feet (or more if needed for fire separation per the California Residential Code).

Maximum Floor Area Ratio and Lot Coverage

ADUs are subject to standard FAR and lot coverage, except that an ADU up to 800 sf is allowed, regardless of FAR and lot coverage.

Coastal Special Communities

  • Pleasure Point: Maximum height for ADUs above Detached Garages: Maximum 22 feet at roof peak, 18 feet at top of exterior wall, and meet standards of the PP combining zone district
  • Seascape Beach Estates: ADUs follow setbacks, height, FAR and lot coverage standards for the SBE combining zone district


Parking is not required for Conversion ADUs or JADUs:

Property owners converting garages to ADUs do not need to replace lost parking spaces except in certain coastal areas.

New Construction ADUs require one new parking space, except in the following locations when outside certain coastal areas:

  • Historic districts
  • Within one block of designated car share parking
  • Within ½ mile walking distance of any transit stop (except in designated coastal areas)

Coastal Parking Regulations:

Within the Live Oak Designated Area (LODA), Seacliff/Aptos/La Selva Designated Area (SALSDA), Davenport/Swanton Designated Area (DASDA), and Opal Cliff Drive between 41st Ave and the City of Capitola, one parking space is required for new construction ADUs, with no exceptions, and replacement parking is required when existing parking is demolished or converted for construction of an ADU.


On properties with ADUs and JADUs that were permitted before January 1, 2020, the owner (or a relative of the owner) is required to live on site. On properties with ADUs permitted during the five-year period from January 1, 2020 through January 1, 2025, owner occupancy is required only if there is also a JADU on the property.

The County requires proof of owner occupancy via a Homeowner’s Tax Exemption filed with the County Assessor or some other official documentation. Property owners have an option to apply for a temporary exception to this owner occupancy requirement at the discretion of the Planning Director.


Permit Fees

  • Maverick 392: $4,400.55
  • Maverick 504: $5,186.75
  • Maverick 748: $12,992.69

ADUs under 640 sq. ft. have greatly reduced fees. They are waived from various processing fees such as a building plan, permits, solid report waiver, and environmental plan.

Sewer Connection Fee: $3,000.00

Water District Fee: $570.00

The majority of ADUs just need a building permit, which is reviewed online using the County's ePlan system. Applications for ADU building permits are examined 60 days after submission.

Before a building permit can be issued, additional evaluation could be necessary for certain modifications to non-conforming homes or for ADUs situated in a coastal zone.


  • Fire sprinklers are generally required in an ADU only if they are present or being installed in the primary home on the parcel. However, you will still need approval from the appropriate fire district and will need to comply with the fire code.
  • You can build an ADU even if your property is on Septic only if your system can handle the additional flow from the ADU or can be upgraded to do so. Anytime you add bedrooms or convert existing bedrooms to ADUs or JADUs, the septic requirements increase.
  • JADUs and Conversion ADUs do not require a new sewer or water connection and no additional capacity charges can be applied, except if they are built concurrently with primary dwellings. New Construction ADUs may require a separate sewer or water connection.
  • All detached New Construction ADUs are subject to the same solar PV requirements as new homes.
  • ADUs shall not be utilized as commercial short-term rentals (i.e. rentals less than 30 days).

Coastal Special Communities

Pleasure Point: Maximum height for ADUs above Detached Garages: Maximum 22 feet at the roof peak, 18 feet at top of exterior wall, and meet standards of the PP combining zone district

Seascape Beach Estates: ADUs follow setbacks, height, FAR, and lot coverage standards for the SBE combining zone district



Public Counter (by appointment only)

Building, Zoning, Geologic Hazards, Environmental Planning, Environmental Health, and Public Works staff are available for in-person or telephone appointments Monday through Thursday from 8:00 to 11:30 AM.

An appointment is required; please use the Appointment Scheduler to self-schedule your time. The Planning Division is located at 701 Ocean Street, 4th Floor, Santa Cruz, CA.

Visit for other Planning Division contact.

This quick reference manual should be useful to you while you work on your ADU project. Our in-house permit technician will process your permit on your behalf without adding any markups as part of our service if you choose to construct with us.

Please don't hesitate to schedule a meeting with us if you're interested in building with ADU.Works or to give us a call at (650)-227-4810. We are happy to answer any questions you may have and go over the details of how your permission will be processed. Our staff is eager to hear from you.

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Are you in need of financing to build an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) in California? Perhaps you should check out the CalHFA ADU award program!

ADU construction labor expenses can be partially offset by homeowners who meet the eligibility conditions by receiving financial aid of up to $40,000.

In addition to giving eligible homeowners a flexible and cheap housing alternative, this program aids in meeting California's expanding need for affordable housing.

This post will cover the CalHFA ADU grant program's eligibility conditions and application procedure so you may take advantage of this chance to create the ADU of your dreams.

News & Updates from CalFHA:
All funds for the Accessory Dwelling Unit Grant program were fully reserved as of March 1st 2023. We are keeping grant program information available to help borrowers and lenders as they continue to process grants in their pipeline.

What is the ADU Grant Program and Who is the Program For?

The California Housing Finance Agency (CalHFA) offers the ADU Grant Program to qualified homeowners who desire to construct an Accessory Dwelling Unit on their property.

The program is made to assist more people with defraying the high costs related to constructing an ADU, which is used as a flexible and cost-effective housing option for family members or tenants.

Owners of single-family homes in California who meet certain eligibility criteria, such as owning a primary residence, committing to renting the ADU to tenants for at least five years, and abiding by all relevant zoning and building standards, are eligible for the program.

ADU Grant Vs. ADU Loan

The ADU Grant Program is a financial aid program provided by the California Housing Finance Agency (CalHFA) that offers qualified homeowners who are taking advantage of up to $40,000 in grant funding to assist with the costs of establishing an ADU.

Grants, as opposed to construction loans, are not subject to repayment and do not accrue interest. Grant recipients must, however, agree to lease the ADU for a minimum of five years to renters with a moderate income level.

However, California homeowners can borrow money to pay for the building materials for the construction of an ADU with the help of an ADU loan. Banks, credit unions, and pre-approved lenders are just a few places from which these loans might be obtained.

While loans must be returned with interest over time, they may provide more flexibility than grants in terms of repayment terms, interest rates, and loan amounts.

The decision between an ADU Grant and an ADU Loan ultimately comes down to each homeowner's particular financial position and housing objectives.

The grant program may be the ideal choice for homeowners who fit the criteria for the CalHFA ADU Grant Program and are ready to adhere to the program's rental conditions.

ADU Loans might be a better option for those who don't fit the grant program criteria or want more flexibility in their financing choices.

How to Apply for the CalHFA ADU Grant Program

To apply for the CalHFA ADU Grant Program, qualified homeowners in California must first determine their eligibility, get pre-approval from a CalHFA-approved lender, identify a licensed contractor, then submit an application for the grant through the lender.

If the application is granted, they will be given funds. The ADU must be rented to qualified tenants for at least five years, and the homeowner must adhere to all zoning and building code requirements.

The homeowner must also own a primary house in California like the city of Santa Clara. As construction advances, grant money is distributed directly to the contractor in stages which provides up to $40,000 in financial support for ADU development.

ADU Grant Income Eligibility Limits

Applicants must confirm their eligibility by achieving the moderate-income criterion for their region, which is not based on household member income, before looking for an approved ADU lending institution.

The maximum borrower income in some areas of California can exceed $200,000, while the minimum income is currently $159,000 in other areas, such as several counties.

The income qualifying limitations for each region can be reviewed, with the maximum wage limit in southeast California being $300,000.Some consumers may find it confusing to learn that the ADU Grant Program requires a loan account to be eligible. However, there are differences between loans and grants, and it's critical to be aware of them.

Grants are given out for a specified sum that cannot be repaid, whereas loans must be fully repaid. CalHFA provides up to $40,000 on ADU subsidies, which must be fully repaid without the prospect of reimbursement from recipients.

Who is eligible for the grant?

Homeowners with modest or low incomes are welcome to apply for financial aid. For instance, in Orange County, a homeowner may make up to $850,000 a year and still be eligible for housing subsidies.

However, there are other limitations to be aware of. Qualifying homeowners are required to sign an affidavit attesting to their occupancy of the property and continued residence there throughout their employment.

This also applies to homeowners with multiple homes. The CalHFA ADU Grant Program excludes dwellings owned by corporations and investment properties.

What can I use the grant money for?

The ADU Grant Program offers funding to help with predevelopment, or "soft," costs including site preparation studies, architectural designs, soil tests, structural engineering, or energy reports.

You have the option of lowering the credit card interest rates if you decide to borrow from the ADU today. Because grant money cannot be used to pay for construction costs, applicants must look for alternative sources of funding for that part of their ADU project.

ADUs are more affordable options for qualifying homeowners wishing to enhance their living space or rental revenue thanks to the ADU Grant Program, which is intended to reduce some of the impact fees associated with installing one.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I finance an ADU in California?

In California, there are various options to finance an ADU. Applying for the CalHFA ADU Grant Program, which offers up to $40,000 to pay predevelopment costs, is one choice.

Another choice is to obtain a construction loan, which can pay for the ADU's construction expenditures. A home equity loan or line of credit is another option for most homeowners who want to fund their ADU project.

Additionally, some local governments provide funding plans, especially for ADUs, such as the ADU Accelerator Program offered by the City of Los Angeles.

Before choosing the best method of financing their ADU project, homeowners should speak with a financial expert and consider all of their options before construction.

Is the ADU grant taxable?

Yes, Accessory Dwelling Units grants are taxable. Any grant or subsidy obtained to build or renovate a property is regarded as taxable income by the IRS.

ADU grant recipients must include the grant amount as additional income on their tax returns for the year they received the award, according to this rule.

However, the construction costs incurred in building or renovating the ADU can be tax deductible. To find out the tax repercussions of getting an ADU subsidy, homeowners should speak with a tax expert.

How do I get money to build an ADU in California?

ADU construction in California can be funded in several ways. To pay predevelopment costs, homeowners can apply for the CalHFA ADU Grant Program. For the money needed to construct the ADU, they can also obtain a construction loan to start the process.

The financing of an ADU project may be contemplated by homeowners using a home equity loan or line of credit. Some local governments also provide funding plans designed especially for ADUs.

To decide how to effectively fund their ADU project, homeowners should consider all of their alternatives and speak with a financial expert.

What is the limit to the ADU grant money?

The CalHFA ADU Grant Program has a $40,000 cap on the amount of ADU grants that may be awarded.

ADU predevelopment costs, such as site prep studies, architectural designs, soil tests, and structural engineering or energy assessments, can be covered by homeowners using this award.

Grant money, however, cannot be used to pay for construction expenses. To be eligible for the grant, homeowners must fulfill several criteria, such as income restrictions and occupancy requirements.

Additionally, they must use an authorized ADU financing institution to submit their grant application and start the application process.

How do I determine if I am eligible for the grant?

How do I determine if I am eligible for the grant?You must first satisfy the program's standards for income, property, and occupancy before you can find out if you qualify for the CalHFA ADU Grant Program.

The applicant must fulfill the locality's minimal income criteria, which varies by region, without help from a household member. Additionally, the property has to be the applicant's principal residence and be situated in California.

Additionally, the applicant must reside on the land while working there. Homeowners must apply for the grant through an authorized ADU lending institution and provide all required paperwork to qualify for their eligibility.

How much do pre-development costs?

Pre-development costs for an ADU might differ depending on a variety of variables, including the project's location, size, and complexity.

Site preparation studies, architectural designs, soil tests, structural engineering, and energy reports are a few examples of pre-development costs. The ADU grant program offers grants of up to $40,000 to aid with these pre-development expenses.

However, as construction costs cannot be covered by grants, homeowners might need to look into alternative forms of finance.

What is the application process for home equity loans?

To apply for a home equity loan for an ADU in your city, you will need to contact approved lenders and provide information about your income, credit score, and property value. Approved loan lenders will determine if you qualify and provide loan options.

Are there non-recurring closing costs for ADUs?

Yes, there are non-recurring closing costs for ADU homes, such as appraisal and inspection fees, that buyers must pay at the time of purchase.

Final Words: Start Your ADU Project with a CAlHFA Grant

The ADU Grant Program offered by CalHFA provides a great opportunity for California homeowners to build Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) on their property and potentially earn additional income.

With the ability to receive up to $40,000 in grant funds, homeowners can offset the costs associated with building an ADU and help address California's housing shortage. However, it is important to carefully review the program guidelines and eligibility requirements before applying.

Hopefully, this guide on the application process helps you out in your journey to start your ADU project. By going through the process religiously and working with approved contractors, homeowners can successfully take advantage of the ADU Grant Program and make a positive impact on their community.


With the inflating cost of living and the demand for affordable housing in desirable and urban areas such as California, people don't have much of an option but to adjust.Local property owners are aging and eventually need to start a business, so building and renting out their ADUs for extra income is an easy option. On the other hand, multi-generational families with tighter budgets can get decent and affordable housing options at the same time.ADUs are more affordable and much easier to build and maintain. They're modern, stylish, and sustainable, making them a great alternative for housing and a way to solve many of today's most prevalent real estate issues in expensive cities around the United States.What do you think? Let us know! We'd love to hear your thoughts on this.

We're passionate about building ADUs and love what it does for families and individuals across the Bay area and beyond. We believe that ADUs can help solve the current housing crisis and we're more than committed to being a part of that solution.

What is an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU)?

An accessory dwelling unit is a secondary unit to an existing home that people use as backyard homes, guest rooms, storage spaces, rental properties, and so on.

They can either be attached to a primary residence or added to a backyard. In some cases, you can also have a basement or garage conversion, adding more space to your property.

Most commonly, an accessory dwelling unit serves as a residential building. However, they can also be used for other reasons, including guest housing, rental properties, offices, studios, storage rooms, and so on.

An accessory dwelling unit is a secondary unit to an existing home that people use as backyard homes, guest rooms, storage spaces, rental properties, and so on.

They can either be attached to a primary residence or added to a backyard. In some cases, you can also have a basement or garage conversion, adding more space to your property.

Most commonly, an accessory dwelling unit serves as a residential building. However, they can also be used for other reasons, including guest housing, rental properties, offices, studios, storage rooms, and so on.

Why You Should Own a Bay Area ADU

Building an ADU in the Bar area is a stellar idea for all sorts of reasons. Here are just some of the multitudes an ADU brings.

  • ADUs raise your property value
  • Expand your property’s living space
  • They declutter your main house
  • They're more affordable than primary homes
  • Give your growing family enough space to live comfortably
  • Provide more housing to the people in the region
  • Encourage multi-generational living and keep loved ones close
  • Reduce housing costs
  • Practice sustainable living
  • Have more space for all your stuff

What You Can Do With Your ADU

Wondering what you can do with your own ADU? Here are some of the common use-cases for ADUs.

  • Accommodate aging parents or other family members
  • Rent out your ADU long-term
  • Turn it into an AirBnb for extra income
  • Turn your unit into a guest house
  • Create a detached office space
  • Use it for storage
  • Create a caretaker's quarters
  • Turn it into a music studio
  • House adult children who are job hunting or are in between careers
  • Live in it while you're doing a house remodelling project on your primary residence
  • Create a backyard cottage

About ADU.Works

We are an ADU construction company that's out to change people's lives by building accessory dwelling units that are cost efficient to the owner, without compromising on quality. Our construction services stand out because of the innovative construction techniques we use.

We started ADU.Works with the goal of becoming one of the preferred ADU builders amongst families and communities in the East Bay area and the rest of California

Many of us live in accessory dwelling units ourselves. That's how much we believe in ADUs. But as we looked around, we found that many ADUs on the market were too pricey or didn't have the features we wanted.

Plus, the building process and customer service weren't as good as they should be.

Construction times were longer than expected.

Customers had to obtain permits themselves. 

We wanted to improve things, so we put together an ADU builder team with lots of experience in construction, project management, design, surveying, restoration, and engineering top create the most beautiful and affordable ADUs in the Bay Area and the rest of the state of California.

You may see a lot of prefab ADU builders out there... We are not one of them. We use the best technology possible to come up with quality PRE-ENGINEERED ADUs that have beautiful interior finishes and cost-effective designs.

Our Guarantee to You

As an ADU builder out to provide the best ADU services, we commit to help you:

Build an ADU in the Bay area that will be beautiful and cost-effective

Provide only the best client service

Use only reliable and quality materials

Adhere to sustainable practices

Use our expertise to build ADUs that maximize your property space

Find the most cost-effective plan possible

What Makes Us and Our Units Different

We don't like to brag, except when we're talking about our amazing team. We truly believe we have the best ADU builders in the Bay area. We know what it takes to make reliable and beautiful ADUs for our clients.

Everyone from the project manager to the structural engineers behind your new ADU will provide our best work that we can provide to Bay area residents and homeowners.

Our ADUs are designed to blend seamlessly with your existing property and are built to the highest standards of quality and energy efficiency. We use only the quality materials and construction techniques, so you can be sure your ADU will stand the test of time.

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Check Out Our ADU Models

The Maverick 392

392 sq. ft. One Bedroom | 1 Bath Detached | 28' x 14' x 15

The Maverick 504

504 sq. ft. Two Bedrooms | 1 Bath Detached | 36' x 14' x 15

The Maverick 748

748 sq. ft. Two Beds | 2 Baths | Detached | 34' x 24' x 15

Our ADU Building Process



Meet with our team for a full showroom tour focusing on ADU design, build materials, and construction processes. Get to see our SIPs, Helical Piles, inclusion and more. This process helps you visualize and decide what accessory dwelling unit model works best for you.



Talk to our project managers to finalize your desired specs, and we'll create a free and quick cost estimate using our state-of-the-art cost estimator. We'll also confirm your qualification for our ADUs using our `QCT powered by Canibuild.


Site Visit

Our team will check your property and conduct comprehensive permit research based on current building codes in accordance to Bay Area laws and ordinances. We'll examine your utility tie-in points and check for any additional site-specific work that may be required.


Build Agreement

We provide you with a build agreement for your Bay Area ADU building project. This agreement will contain contract specifications for your chosen configuration, such as, square footage, inclusions, site work, permits required, build materials, interior finishes, payment terms, timeline, and others.

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Types of ADU Buildings for the San Francisco Bay Area

So what kind of ADUs can your ADU builder create for you? Here are a few of the most common.

Detached ADU

Build ADUs that stand completely on their own. A detached ADU can be a backyard ADU or any other structure where the living space doesn’t share a wall or roof with the primary home.

Garage Conversion

Turn an existing garage into a beautiful attached garage conversion ADU. Garage conversions are a great way to maximize unused garages. 

Attached ADU

Build attached ADUs to expand your current living space. An attached ADU will share at least one wall and a roof with your primary house.

Basement Conversion

Do you have an unused or underutilized basement in your house? Turn that into a living space you can house family members in or rent for extra income.

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Places in California We Serve

  • San Francisco
  • San Jose
  • Oakland
  • Marin
  • East Bay
  • San Jose
  • Silicon Valley
  • And More
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Are You Ready to Expand Your Living Space with a Beautiful ADU?

Talk to us today and we’d love to help you get your ADU construction well underway!

All across the country, ADUs have become more and more popular in recent years. You’ve probably heard a friend or two rave about them already at this point. As property prices skyrocket across many urban areas and cities, these affordable, reliable, and beautiful homes have become the preferred housing choice for people across California and beyond.

But what are accessory dwelling units, and how are they different from a regular house? How much does it cost to build ADUs? And what are the pros and cons of this option? We answer those questions in this exhaustive guide to ADUs and all the nuances that surround them.

ADU Definition: What is an Accessory Dwelling Unit?

An accessory dwelling unit (ADU) is a smaller secondary unit or manufactured home (legally classified as real property) built in the same lot as the homeowner’s primary house, often a single-family property.

The State of California defines ADUs as "attached or a detached residential dwelling unit that provides complete independent living facilities for one or more persons and is located on a lot with a proposed or existing primary residence." ADUs are also called granny flats, accessory apartments, in-law units, secondary suites, backyard cottages, or secondary units.

Accessory dwelling units provide additional living spaces for young or elderly family members who need support and help low to mid-income households save resources. In many cases, ADU owners might also use their units as additional space that serves as a guest house, studio, storage, or office space.

They’re also great investments, as you can rent them out. Many aspiring property investors often turn a basement or garage into an ADU and rent it out for passive income. And because they’re relatively cheaper to build, you can offer these homes at lower rates and still make a decent profit. These are just some examples of ways to build wealth through ADUs.

People have recently been inclined to acquire this form of housing in many cities in the United States, especially in California, where real estate prices have soared tremendously. This is mainly because an ADU is relatively more affordable than other traditional forms of single-family home construction.

Moreover, an ADU provides full amenities and meets safety and building codes and local jurisdiction requirements. All this provides comfort and supplies affordable housing to communities across the country.

Understanding an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU)

What's the Difference Between Primary Dwelling and Accessory Dwelling?

An accessory dwelling unit is different from the primary dwelling space because it is usually smaller than the primary residential unit. ADU owners choose to build these homes detached or attached to the primary one as these can be used for rental housing or to house elderly parents or adult children.

The regulations to build a primary home and ADU are also different. Regulations for ADU construction vary across cities and counties. However, there are generally limitations to the size and height of an accessory unit. They must also be on the same parcel as the primary dwelling and cannot exist independently.

How Much Does it Cost to Build Accessory Dwelling Units?

The cost of building an accessory dwelling unit depends on the size and proposed design. These depend on zonal regulations, geotechnical site conditions, and fire hazard zones, among other local requirements. Other factors that affect your ADU’s price are the proposed building system, materials and finishes, and licensed contractors.

Many cities have already placed local zoning regulations that support and permit ADUs. So, before considering building one, check with your local jurisdiction.
Building unregulated or unpermitted ADUs may affect other projects on your premises due to penalties and violations with the jurisdiction, potentially affecting the process of selling your home in the future.

Overview of ADU types

Not all ADUs are the same. They differ depending on where it is built and located with respect to the primary home. Here are the different examples and types of accessory dwelling units:

Detached Units

Detached ADUs are separate from the primary home. These ADUs do not share any walls with the primary dwelling and include converted structures that are detached or newly constructed. It is usually built in the backyard and has its own kitchen, toilet, bath, and living area.

Attached Units

Some ADUs are attached to the primary home. They’re usually an addition or expansion to the primary home for dwelling or storage. However, they’re built so that it is still a separate space.

Interior Conversion

Interior conversion ADUs, are also called Internal ADUs. These units convert a portion of the primary home into a separate living space. Areas that may not be used by the homeowners, such as a basement or attic, can be converted into additional living space.

Garage Conversion ADU

A garage conversion is a type of ADU that transforms the garage into an alternative dwelling space. Instead of housing a car, a garage can be turned into an ADU that one can use as a bungalow, mini-apartment, or any other dwelling space.

Financing Options for ADU Construction

Several financing options are available when constructing ADUs. One of the most popular would be through a housing renovation loan. Due to its growing popularity in California, other financing options are specially designed to build ADUs.

Here are some financing options you can consider if you’re in California:

CalHFA ADU Grant

A CalHFA ADU Grant is the state's Housing Finance Agency grant program that gives you up to $40,000 that you can use to pay for costs associated with your ADU. The best part about this financing option is that it’s not a loan, meaning you don’t have to worry about interest rates or payments.

Check out this article we wrote about the CalHFA ADU Grant to learn more about this financing option.

Cash-out Refinancing

Cash-out refinancing involves refinancing your first mortgage to access some of the home equity you’ve already built up through time. You can use those funds to then fund your construction. 

Renovation Financing

By taking out a renovation loan, you’ll be able to access a predetermined amount based on the equity of your primary home.

Home Equity Loans

A home equity loan is essentially a second mortgage. You can use this to access a portion of your home equity to take out a lump sum that you can use to pay for your ADU. On average, a lender can allow you up to 85% of your home’s value minus the outstanding first mortgage to a maximum of $150,000.

Pros and Cons of ADU


Here are some of the advantages that make ADUS one of the most preferred housing choices among property owners.

Additional income potential through renting

Homeowners who wish to gain additional income may collect rent fees from tenants but more relevant, it is a way of providing affordable housing options to the community. Checking the average prices for rent in your area may be beneficial to ensure that the rental fees you collect can serve as a great return on your investment.

Opportunity for multi-generational living

ADUs let you house family members who might need greater support, such as elderly parents or grandparents. These spaces allow bigger households to live near each other while maintaining autonomy and privacy.

Increase in property value

Having ADUs became popular as they tend to add value to properties, making it better with property appraisal when homeowners choose to sell the property. Homeowners shall still consult with real estate professionals to know how much value an ADU could bring to the premises.

Unseparated Families

In residential areas across California, households are commonly split to fit budget constraints. Some members are forced to live in affordable within-state or out-of-state neighborhoods However, as the adoption of ADU housing grows and local jurisdictions promote ADUs, families no longer have to be separated.
Moreover, the savings from cheaper mortgages or rent gives them more financial wiggle room to cover other expenses. No more scrimping on groceries or missing out on utility bills just to cover housing bills. This benefit greatly improves people’s quality of life.

Freedom to Live and Move

Despite being on the same premises as a single-family or multi-family home, an ADU shall have its own permanent and independent provisions for living. Residents of accessory dwelling units have their kitchen, sleeping quarters, and other amenities, so they have full freedom to live comfortably. 


Like any other housing option, ADUs have their own sets of challenges. Here are some challenges that you should be aware of so you’re fully prepared for all scenarios.

Zoning and permit requirements

Various zoning and permit requirements may limit how a certain ADU is built and used. These vary from state to state, so it is recommended to check with your local city or state’s authorities before building an ADU.

Increase in property taxes and other expenses

When building such, property tax also increases, which may reduce earnings from a total potential rental income. If you’re planning to rent out an ADU, you’ll also have certain maintenance costs. However, you can use some of the rental income to pay for those expenses.

Challenges with construction

There are many issues related to construction that can hold your building project back, such as weather, financing approval, safety code approval, seismic zones, and so on. But the biggest construction pain point is construction quality. Not all ADU builders provide the same quality work.
That’s why it’s highly crucial to find quality builders who effectively manage building projects without wasting your resources and time. That’s why we take so much pride in our team at ADU.Works— they’re committed to managing construction projects across California. To work with us, feel free to contact us today.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What's the difference between an ADU and a “Tiny House”?

Tiny houses have gained popularity in recent years, and while they may be closely related to ADUs, there may be differences. Tiny homes can be just as expensive as ADUs, so the value isn’t always a differentiating factor. The main differences are mobility and allowed square footage.

You can move a tiny house around sometimes, whereas ADUs are always fixed structures. Most tiny homes have wheels and can be transported from one place to another.

Secondly, tiny homes often have a smaller allowed square footage, normally capped at 400 square feet. An ADU, however, can be as big as 1,200 square feet depending on local codes, making them a better option for larger families or those who want bigger spaces at a lesser cost.

Why do people build ADUs?

People build ADUs for various reasons depending on their needs, zonal regulations, and resources. One reason among homeowners is the need for additional space. At the same time, another could be their desire to live with other relatives, such as elderly parents or adult children and their families.

On the other hand, this housing option can also serve as an additional stream of additional income as it can serve as a rental property. Having an ADU increases property value while ensuring housing affordability both for the homeowners and the renter at the same time.

As demand for affordable housing increases, building ADUs may provide affordable housing solutions making it a win for both homeowners and renters.

Can I build an ADU on my property?

Some restrictions in the State of California determine who can build an ADU. Fortunately, zoning laws and local government regulations in the state are less restrictive than in other states. The owner of the property must live on the property. In California, you’re allowed to build a maximum of two ADUs.

How big can I make my ADU?

The size of ADUs may vary from state to state as zoning regulations indicate how big one can build their ADUs. Other factors you need to consider are things like the easements, set backs and available space.

It’s best to work with an ADU builder to do a feasibility study before deciding on how big you want it to be. A good contractor will also help you get a good cost estimate, so you know if a certain size fits your budget.

Does an ADU require a kitchen?

That mostly depends on where you live. Some cities require it while others do not. You can consult a local housing or community development administration representative. Many regional entities permit ADUs that do not require a kitchen.

In places where ADU ordinances require a kitchen, it must have cabinets, a countertop, a sink with running water, and a stove or stove hookup.

Final Thoughts

With limited housing options in recent years, an ADU may be the perfect solution as it provides more affordable options for homeowners and renters alike. Building an ADU on your property has its pros and cons, which is why talking to experts is still recommended.

If you are considering building an ADU, study your jurisdiction, zoning regulations, resources, and intentions to ensure that making one can give you value for your money. Or you can choose to talk to expert ADU builders who provide an end-to-end process for aspiring owners.

Overall, ADUs are a great housing solution for communities in California and other cities across America. They provide quality homes at a fraction of the price of traditional single-family units.

If you’re planning to own an accessory dwelling unit, reach out to us and see how you can get started. We’d love to help you build and own your very own cost-effective and beautiful ADU!