CCAR The Voice of Clark County Real Estate: Accessory Dwelling Units

Posted June 17, 2018 in Special Features

Rian Davis, Clark County WA real estate agent

In an age where housing options are getting more and more creative, individuals and families are starting to take a closer look at accessory dwelling units, or ADU’s. Over time, ADU’s have taken on a multitude of names- granny flat, mother-in-law quarters, and tiny house, but ADU is the new all-encompassing name that homeowners use to describe an additional living quarter, complete with a bedroom, bathroom, and full kitchen.

There are two primary types of accessory dwelling units- attached and unattached. Examples of an attached ADU would be a finished basement, additional apartment incorporated into the primary dwelling, or a dwelling built on the side of a home that shares a common wall. An apartment above a detached garage or what we now call “tiny homes” would fall under the “detached ADU” umbrella. This distinction is important to Clark County homeowners, as zoning can impact what type of ADU you can add to your property. Generally speaking, a rural property would require an attached ADU, so as to not have an impact on density.

What are some motivations for building an ADU? Well, many ADU’s are built to accommodate a family member, generally an aging parent, adult child with special needs, or a college student. It allows the resident of the ADU to have some independence while still receiving support from the resident of the primary dwelling, and generally is meant to be financially affordable. Another reason homeowners build ADU’s is to rent out either the ADU or their primary dwelling as a source of income. With affordable housing options getting tighter and tighter, this is an option for homeowners to offer some relief to a single person, couple, or family looking for a place to call home and add some income.

Recently, the City of Vancouver and Clark County revised their building codes related to accessory dwelling units in order for them to be a more attractive and affordable option for homeowners. Building materials must meet a quality threshold, blend in with the surrounding homes, and both the City and County expanded the size ranges allowed. Additionally, parking must be addressed in order to minimize the impact on the neighborhood streets. If a homeowner wishes to build out a basement as an ADU, they are no longer restricted by size and can build a unit that utilizes the entire space within the foundation.

If you are considering building an accessory dwelling unit on your existing property or on an upcoming project, be sure to coordinate your plans with the jurisdiction in which you live. They will get you on the right track when it comes to any fees, permitting, and materials so you can ensure the project fits your needs and finishes within budget. Accessory dwelling units can provide flexibility for your family, add income, and contribute to the overall value of your property, and hopefully will help meet the community’s goals for affordable housing and aging in place opportunities.

Rian Davis
Public Affairs Director
Clark County Association of REALTORS®