April 19, 2019, by John King
Tips for getting beyond the barriers, making dwelling units a priority
Legislative action at the state and local levels has eased the path for construction of accessory dwelling units. But for the trend to really take off in the Bay Area, experts say, creative action is needed on a variety of fronts.
Spread the word: People who own secondary units in the North Bay can soon make extra money by singing their praises — an outreach program funded by Community Foundation Sonoma County and the Napa Valley Community Foundation will pay owners as much as $350 to pose for photographs, appear in videos and talk about why they’re glad they made room on their property for someone else to live.
Another way to get attention is a variation of artists’ open studios or home garden tours. In June, Portland, Ore., will hold its sixth annual self-guided tour of ADUs in and around the city. More than 1,000 people are expected to pay $30 each for wristbands that let them into the chosen cottages, where owners or builders will be on hand to show off their creations.
Make things easy: Cities in San Mateo County can apply for $50,000 grants to be part of a “one-stop shop” that will assist residents who are contemplating building a secondary unit but “need help getting across the finish line,” according to the county’s announcement of the program.
Cities that are selected would work with social nonprofit Hello Housing to move qualified applicants through the process, from lining up the necessary permits and funding to making sure construction goes smoothly. The goal is to attract homeowners who are worried they don’t have the resources or knowledge to go the ADU route on their own.
Crack the financial nut: For all the talk about how secondary units can help less-affluent homeowners create a source of long-term personal income, it’s often hard for them to pull together the money to build a cottage or convert a garage. In response, the city of Oakland is looking into funding assistance that might include grants or low-interest loans.
There’s also the challenge of streamlining the design and construction process, which might not only cut costs but help people get past their fear of taking on such a project. Santa Rosa is exploring the idea of having preapproved construction plans that would fit in a typical backyard — the only variable would be the foundation details.