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  • Chris Cook, Capiche

ADUs to the Rescue!

There are many reasons to consider an ADU (accessory dwelling unit) when designing residential spaces and the reasons just keep multiplying. These structures—also referred to as mother-in-law suites, accessary apartments and above-garage apartments—are living spaces independent of the primary home on a single-family lot. They are comprised of a minimum of kitchen, bath and living space. ADUs were first adopted after World War II to fulfill the housing shortage, and they are once again gaining popularity. In Southern Oregon and Northern California, ADUs are coming into play in the rental market as well as meeting the needs for housing in the fire-ravaged Southern Oregon communities of Talent and Phoenix. As urban growth boundaries are stretched, ADUs are also a way to provide additional housing within existing residential communities. They can increase a homeowner’s living space or provide additional income as a rental on their existing property. And depending on a person’s stage in life, an ADU can provide great flexibility as shown in this illustration from Pacific Residential Mortgage.

Ashland architect Carlos Delgado says he is frequently asked to design homes of less than 1,000 square feet. “There is increasing demand lately for houses designed for fewer occupants,” he says. “Look at the statistics. In the 1950s, houses were on average 1,000 SF with 3.8 residents. In 2010, the average home was 2,500 SF with just 2.6 residents—the size of the home as increased by 250% while the number of residents in each home has decreased by 32%!” Delgado has been inspired by Kol Peterson, an ADU expert based in Portland, Ore. His work over the last 10 years has revolutionized the ADU zeitgeist through education, advocacy, policy work and entrepreneurship through his company, Accessory Dwelling Strategies. Working with the City of Medford, Delgado has created three permit ready ADU plans. Property owners using these plans benefit from reduced System Development Charges as well as avoiding the cost for design work. This program follows a similar endeavor by the City of Grants Pass and has a strong possibility of being adopted by the Cities of Ashland, Talent and Phoenix. Delgado sees this as a smart move, especially for the rebuilding needed in Talent and Phoenix after the Almeda Fire. “If you looked at the map of Talent before the fire, you would have seen a lot of residences with empty backyards,” Delgado begins. “There’s a terrific opportunity to rebuild at a greater density without any lengthy zoning process and to provide residents with greater flexibility.” For example, Delgado’s plans include options for:

  • 400 SF studio with a small amount of interior storage

  • 660 SF. one-bedroom with exterior storage

  • 728 SF studio over a 1 ½-car garage

These are prescriptive, pre-approved designs with no additional structural engineering necessary. However, there is still the need for a professional builder. Also, these units are not cheap. Building costs are rising—especially due to high demand caused by the fires, but keep in mind that the purchase of property/land often makes up the bulk of the cost of a new building. Have we captured your interest? You’re not alone. ADUs are finding great popularity these days and rightly so. What began for Delgado as a plug-and-play blueprint series for the City of Medford has taken on an additional—and important—function: to give Talent and Phoenix fire victims other options for rebuilding their homes. --- ADU photos courtesy of

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