Help comes for the California Wine Country housing shortage: How to build accessory dwelling units
Creating a new home where there’s already a single-family residence, whether by converting a garage into a living space or constructing a separate “granny “unit on the same property, is a rising answer for some to the housing shortage.
Now a nonprofit center has been set up to provide free help in how to get started, including financial planning, budgeting, permitting, design considerations and construction tips for accessory dwelling units (ADU) in Napa and Sonoma counties.
The nonprofit Napa Sonoma ADU Center’s advisers and partners track frequently changing state and local ADU laws and policies, conduct focus groups and interviews with local homeowners. It also provides a step-by-step ADU workbook, created by Baird + Driskell Community Planning, offering useful information and reduce the uncertainty in what many feel is a complicated process, among other vital services.
Established in late Spring 2020, the center is a fiscally-sponsored project of Napa Valley Community Foundation with support from Community Foundation of Sonoma County and from the cities of Napa and Calistoga as well as Napa County which have collectively provided $350,000 for the budget.
“I believe in a future where every person in Napa and Sonoma can afford to live and thrive here. ADUs can help bridge the middle-income housing gap and can contribute significant housing production relatively quickly and affordably with opportunities to expand access to lower income households,” said ADU center Director Renee Schomp, a native of Sonoma County.
She has worked as an attorney focusing on civil legal aid and as a nonprofit leader. Schomp and her husband live in an above-garage ADU in West Sonoma County.
She said the ADU center collaborates with the 16 local municipalities and jurisdictions, nonprofits and the private sector with a goal of increasing housing affordability in the community. To date, the center has completed 13 ADU feasibility Reports, with 15 more currently in the pipeline, while also helping more than 70 homeowners with their ADU questions. Seven hundred interested homeowners have signed up for the center’s newsletter and 435 have registered to participate in the ADU center’s initial five ADU webinars.
With the housing shortage a statewide concern, Schomp said homeowners are thinking about having the flexibility to age in place or possibly downsize, while providing space for extended family and friends, or having room for grown children returning home. As a result, an increasing number are weighing options for building ADUs – while also thinking about having rental income to help pay bills or the mortgage.
Since 2014, a total of 1,026 ADUs have received building permits across both Napa and Sonoma counties through 2019. In Sonoma County, 823 ADUs were permitted during the six-year period from 2014 to 2019, according to data from the California Department of Housing and Community Development.
Some 70% of completed ADUs involve detached units, 9% are attached and 23% are built above existing garages.
How much will it cost?
Cost is a major factor. According to the ADU Center, the typical hard construction cost for an ADU is between $325 and $425 per square foot, in addition to the soft costs of design and permitting. Schomp recommends that interested parties should meet first with their local planning division before having plans drawn by a professional designer or architect to avoid costly revisions.
Construction costs vary depending upon the type of ADU involved. For small internal conversions within existing homes, costs can be under $55,000. For attic and basement conversions, the cost can range from $80,000 to $150,000, and garage conversions can vary from $80,000 to $200,000 (with a maximum of 400 square feet). For attached ADUs, the cost can be from $170,000 to $250,000 and up, and for detached ADUs, costs can range from $170,000 to $400,000 and up.
How soon can a homeowner see an ROI on an ADU?
When calculating a homeowner’s ADU return on investment, this can take from one to nine years, depending on size and costs. This outcome can be addressed by using the ADU calculator on the center’s website.
The timeline for ADU completion typically takes between 6 months to two years from the start of design through occupancy
Schomp said under a new state law, ADU permitting timeline has been reduced to no more than 60 days, and sometimes even less, if applications are complete. She added that garage and home conversions are relatively easy if the homeowner is converting already-finished space.
Praise from government
Officials in the public sector who focus on housing issues were happy to see the Napa Sonoma ADU Center get up and running.