San Francisco put its Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) program into action in 2016, aiming to create more housing in the city. ADUs are also known as in-law units, secondary units and cottages. They can be great for children moving back after college, or a parent you’d like to move into your home. You can also rent out an ADU, which is an excellent way to supplement your income or plan for retirement.
For the details and specifics on adding an ADU, check out the city’s Web page here.
But before you run out and turn that large storage space at the back of your garage into a second unit, consider some important factors:
Insurance. Make sure you consult your insurance company before you add a unit. Coverage and costs may change with an ADU involved, particularly if you’re going to be renting the unit.
Architectural challenges. ADU access can be an issue if you don’t have a utility door from the street, says architect Stephen Whitney. For example, the Preservation Department may not allow you to add a new door to your facade in some cases.
Property tax increases. Will the city consider an ADU addition to be similar to that of a remodel when it comes to increasing your property tax base? Or will there be an additional cost? This is something Whitney has been trying to clarify, and it’s not apparent at this point.
Rent control. If you’re adding an ADU to a single-family house built before 1979, both dwelling units will be subject to rent control. (Single-family homes are not currently subject to rent control on their own.)
Neighborhood opposition. You could run up against neighborhood groups (or your immediate neighbors) who are concerned about the impact on parking that a new ADU will have.
I think ADUs are a great way to address the shortage of housing in San Francisco. With a bit of due diligence, you can add an income stream and value to your property—and create the housing you need.