Breaking Down Barriers to Racial and Economic Equity in ADU Construction

Date Published: 
September 14th, 2022

UC Berkeley’s Terner Center and the Center for Community Innovation recently published new research on racial and economic barriers that exist in Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) construction. ADUs are a popular strategy to expand the housing supply and California has recently passed several laws governing their construction. The report seeks to examine the barriers that exist to ADU construction for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) households in California and offers specific policy recommendations for removing these barriers.

The authors conducted four 90-minute focus groups with homeowners throughout California that revealed several trends. Participants consistently noted the high costs of building an ADU and that traditional financial products aren’t well-suited for financing ADU construction. ADU construction costs can vary widely depending on size and region, with median costs for ADU construction in California coming in at $150,000 in 2021 (around $250 / square foot). Permitting for ADUs can also be a barrier; one homeowner reported that the permits alone would cost $45,000. Moreover, local and state ADU laws and regulations can be complicated, and local and state government officials aren’t always knowledgeable.

Several recommendations were made by the authors based on feedback from the focus groups. One such suggestion is to build community organization capacity to facilitate interest in ADUs. These organizations would improve the likelihood that homeowners pursue ADU construction while building a sense of community. Another recommendation is to invest in programs that offer targeted financial resources to BIPOC and/or low- and moderate-income homeowners for ADU construction. Finally, the authors recommend that local agency ADU administration be formalized, streamlined, and improved, with the goal of improving access in mind.


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