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Sign up for the LA Times You Do ADU newsletter


Maybe you feel your house is too small for you but you can’t afford to buy a bigger one. Maybe you need an extra bed and bathroom for your elderly parents or a daughter just out of college. Or maybe you just need an extra income.

Here are some of the reasons Southern Californians are rushing to build accessory dwelling units: small, fully-equipped houses on the same lot as a larger house (usually the house they live in). . In 2021, ADUs accounted for 15% of approved housing units in California, a staggeringly high percentage that reflects how expensive it is to build large-scale housing in this state. And Los Angeles has led the waybuilding many more ADUs than any other city.

But building an ADU isn’t a quick backyard project like installing a swing set or a tool shed. Experts say it presents many of the same problems and complexities as building a full-size house. And while an ADU costs significantly less than a new home, it’s not cheap: These jobs often cost $150,000 or more.

So before you start spending those dollars, you need to ask yourself a few questions to make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons. That’s what the You Do ADU newsletter is for to help you. Because what may be the right reasons for someone else won’t necessarily be the right reasons for you. Depending on your goal, something other than an ADU might be a better solution.

“My top advice is, early on, understand why you’re building an ADU, understand your budget…and then try to figure out how to square the circle,” said Anthony P. Dedousis of renaissance housesa startup that guides homeowners through ADU projects.

This six-week informational course is not intended to argue for or against ADUs. Instead, it tries to help you make the right decision for you and your property. That, in fact, is the focus of the first installment.

In the weeks that follow, we’ll explore how much it will cost to build one of these units and how to pay for it; how to come up with a design; how to hire the professional help you will surely need; and how to anticipate and avoid problems that often arise. The final article, by my colleague Lisa Boone, will offer insights gleaned from other Southern Californians who have built ADUs. What went right? What would they have done differently?

your host

Jon Healey, Senior Editor, Public Service Journalism Team.

(Jay L. Clendenin/Los Angeles Times)

I’m Jon Healey of The Times Public Service Journalism Team, the group that helps you solve the problems you’ll face living in Southern California. How to build an ADU! Before you ask, no, I have not built an ADU. I turned my garage into… a better garage.

But last year I wrote a widely reported article on how to build an ADU in Southern California, and it was clear from the reader response that we needed to dig deeper. There is an enormous amount of interest, but at the same time a lot of uncertainty about how to carry out one of these projects.

Joining me on the project is Lisa Boone, a writer who regularly writes stories about ADUs and home design. Having interviewed several homeowners about her experiences building ADUs, she will share her views in the final installment of this series.

About half a million lots in Los Angeles alone could have “backyard homes,” according to Elizabeth Timme, a Los Angeles-based designer and ADU advocate. If you’re a Californian thinking about adding one, You Do ADU is the place to start.

Merry C. Vega is a highly respected and accomplished news author. She began her career as a journalist, covering local news for a small-town newspaper. She quickly gained a reputation for her thorough reporting and ability to uncover the truth.

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