An inside look at ADUs and their impact on the San Jose Housing Market
Rising home prices and rents are creating an affordable housing crisis in America, particularly in San Jose, California. The solution? Is it tiny, big or both? The answer is both—tiny ADUs offer a big housing solution.
Proponents of accessory dwelling units (or ADUs) advocate that these small backyard structures are the answer to the city’s current housing crisis. These supporters, including Acton Construction, predict that ADUs in dense California cities like San Jose will change the city’s landscape.
Last year, communities from San Jose to Palo Alto started relaxing restrictions on accessory dwelling units and adopting new ordinances. Today, with politics moving in the right direction, advocacy for ADUs has increased.
ADUs are now being seen as a relatively easy way to increase housing density while attending to the needs of the many who can’t afford, don’t want or no longer need big single-family homes. Among them, college students, Millennials, single parents, empty nesters and the elderly.
And, if we compare San Jose to Vancouver, Canada, a true model of how a widespread adoption of ADUs can impact a housing market, we can be optimistic about our future.
Similar to San Jose, “Vancouver has faced the same skyrocketing real estate prices that have transformed cities up and down the Pacific coast. Facing a similar affordability shortage, the city passed an ordinance in 2009 legalizing ADUs, often referred to as laneway houses in Canada. The citywide bylaws immediately made 65,000 lots eligible for such construction when they went into effect at the beginning of 2010. Now, there’s a cottage industry constructing these units, more than 2,000 have been built, and a local preservation group even hosts a laneway tour.” (source: Blog, Curbed Property Lines).
Stanley Acton is the principal at Acton Construction, a local firm that created a specialty division focused entirely on ADUs, and is building these structures for local residents following the passage of California’s senate and assembly bills in 2016 and 2017. He says San Jose and the growing tech market in Silicon Valley have created a true market for this type of construction.
Vancouver’s example is important because we can learn how to see ADUs differently—as a positive difference that will enhance rather than destroy the fabric of our neighborhoods, impacting density and rental units. We can learn from Vancouver’s history and work continuously with legislators to eliminate onerous regulations.
One thing is for certain, there is momentum behind expansion; and density, no matter how small, will continue to bring debate. But, with pending change and relaxing laws and regulations, maybe we can begin to see ADUs as a viable solution to the housing crisis in San Jose and other dense communities.
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