Housing & Homelessness

Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) Pilot Program

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To help address the housing crisis in Los Angeles, Mayor Garcetti established a goal of building 100,000 additional housing units by 2021. One strategy is to increase the supply of legal Secondary Units, commonly referred to as Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) or backyard homes. With about 500,000 single-family zoned parcels in Los Angeles but only 346 secondary units built legally since 2003, the i-team felt there was a significant opportunity to increase the number of ADUs in the city. This will both help meet the City’s housing goals and also provide homeowners value in the form of rental income or property ‘right-sizing’ to accommodate multi-generational families. The i-team developed a comprehensive ‘end-to-end’ Secondary Unit Pilot Project, partnering with Departments to modify zoning code barriers and improve the permitting process, working with a regional lender to develop and pilot new accessible financing mechanisms, and creating a handbook with sample designs and budgets for would-be builders. The i­-team also collaborated closely with private partners to design, finance, and build a pilot ADU on a residential property in LA. The pilot successfully demonstrated that homeowners can build well­-designed, low­ cost units in their backyards that add ‘naturally affordable’ housing stock. The i-­team also advocated for changes at the State level and, in 2016, Governor Brown signed two bills that legalized ADUs in all California municipalities. In 2017, the i-team was proud to witness a nearly 700% increase in permit requests across for ADUs Los Angeles.



Currently, Los Angeles is grappling with a housing shortage, one of the largest homeless populations in the nation, rising rents, and an increasing population. At the same time, the city is home to nearly 500,000 single family homes that could be eligible to comfortably build a well designed and legal secondary unit, or backyard home, on their property to provide housing for elderly parents, kids or renters. As a result of the City’s complex building process, as well as limited information on how to build these well, this housing typology has gone both under-utilized and under-reported.


As of December 31, 2017, the City of Los Angeles has seen a nearly 700% increase in permit requests for ADUs. The i-team’s initial project is nearing completion with the passing of state legislation in September of 2016, the launch of the handbook in mid-2017, and several other key process items addressed. In 2018, the team looks forward to the completion of the pilot ADU in Highland Park and to expanding the efforts to a larger ADU program in the City of Los Angeles modeled off of this work.



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Genesis LA, LA Mas
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