Toolkit Topic

What to Do About ADUs (Accessory Dwelling Units)

This is an item in our Local Government Toolkit

An “Accessory Dwelling Unit” (ADU) is the technical term used in state and local codes to describe what is commonly called a mother-in-law apartment, basement apartment, accessory apartment, backyard cottage, etc. They are increasingly popular and can benefit your community in the following ways:

  1. Enable older or disabled residents to live on the same lot as their relatives or caretakers, creating a means for their needs to be met and for them to remain in the community.
  2. Increase the supply of affordable housing not requiring government subsidies.
  3. Increase the tax base of your community while minimizing the costs related to new public infrastructure.

In addition to these, and other, benefits, we advocate approaching ADU regulation with the following principles in mind:

Personal Freedom: Residents should have the freedom to peacefully use their own property how they choose.

Impact: Concerns about parking overflowing across the neighborhood, noise, and other potential nuisances should not be the basis for rejecting ADUs. Valid concerns can be addressed in a well-crafted ordinance.

Inappropriate Restrictions: Some jurisdictions require ADUs to be attached to another structure, impose aesthetic restrictions, or exclude ADUs from certain neighborhoods or lots of certain sizes. While some of these restrictions may be allowed by state law, we recommend focusing your ADU ordinance on health and safety concerns.

Are you a local elected official and interested in chatting with us more about this topic? Please reach out to us at—we’d love to chat!


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