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What Is An ADU?

Accessory Dwelling Units
Accessory dwelling units, or ADUs, have become a bit of a buzzword in the housing world. In recent years, these backyard tiny homes have offered affordable housing solutions in pricey cities, provided studio space for creative types, and served as in-law suites for aging relatives. Now, ADUs, sometimes called “granny flats,” are popping up at record pace during the coronavirus pandemic. They’ve taken on a new purpose: to create flexible space for people cooped up at home. 

An ADU could be a classroom for distance learners, a home office for remote workers, a suite for college students boomeranging back home amid campus closures, or even a home gym. Once a novel backyard addition, the freestanding dwellings are one of COVID-19’s most popular home additions because they’re relatively affordable, can be quickly built, and are ever so nimble.

Recently, the Raleigh City Council approved an ordinance that allows any detached house or duplex to add a second, smaller, “accessory” dwelling unit with its own kitchen and entrance. It can be in a separate building (e.g., a backyard cottage or above a detached garage), an addition to the existing house, or within the same house. 

The Raleigh area has a very limited selection of multifamily properties. The housing stock in Wake County is heavily tilted towards single-family properties, and now this law means that those can legally become 2-unit properties. Raleigh now joins Durham, Charlotte, and even Cary, which has long allowed one “utility dwelling unit” within the same structure.  The new rules allow the construction of accessory dwelling units by right in any residential district in the city.  The dwellings, which can be no bigger than the primary residence, cannot be mobile and must be attached to a permanent foundation on the property. Only one ADU is allowed per property and can be up to 1,000 square feet depending on the lot size. ADUs have long been popular on the West Coast, so there’s already lots of people moving to the Triangle who know about them.  

What to consider if you’re interested in an ADU
The first step in building an ADU is learning what you may or may not be allowed to do on your specific lot.  A quick call to your local building department can usually answer these questions, and a little bit of planning can save a lot of time down the road. Other things to consider: Does your HOA have restrictions? What kind of permitting is required? What type of financing can you qualify for?  

If you’re interested in adding an ADU to your property, be sure to familiarize yourself with Raleigh’s ADU Regulations  before you get started!  

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