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Could ADUs help solve LA’s homelessness crisis?

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The mayor’s office wants to encourage landlords to rent out granny flats to the homeless

Cover ADU
A prefabricated ADU model.
Courtesy Cover

New state rules making it easier for homeowners to build accessory dwelling units on their properties were designed to address California’s severe housing shortage.

Now Los Angeles officials plan to test whether ADUs, aka granny flats and in-law units, could be a solution for homelessness as well.

Mayor Eric Garcetti announced today that the city has won a $1 million grant through the Bloomberg Philanthropies Mayors Challenge to fund a program pairing homeless residents with homeowners who have space on their properties for an ADU.

Under the program, which is expected to launch in spring, participating homeowners would receive up to $30,000 worth of assistance constructing an ADU on their property. Rather than a direct loan or stipend, the money would come in the form of tax breaks or reduced permitting fees.

In return, owners must agree to rent the new structure to a homeless resident who will be supplied for two years with rental assistance and case management through the county’s homeless services authority.

“We are looking for landlords who are compassionate,” Amanda Daflos, leader of Garcetti’s Innovation Delivery Team, told Curbed in June.

Last year, the innovation team worked with local architecture firm LA Más on a pilot project in Highland Park meant to model practical design and to inform future city policy regulating and encouraging ADU construction.

In addition to financial incentives for homeowners, the city’s new program will include a portal for homeowners, described by Daflos as a “concierge-type service,” where residents can find out more about what types of ADUs might be allowed on their properties.

Daflos says the program will be customized to ensure the needs of both homeowners and homeless residents are being met.

“Just as no ADU fits in every backyard, this is going to be a very individual experience,” she says.

Los Angeles-specific rules governing ADU construction are still a work in progress, but statewide standards have made constructing the units a simpler process in the meantime. That’s caught the interest of property owners, who applied to build nearly 2,000 ADUs in the first 10 months after the new rules took effect.

This level of interest has policy makers excited about ADUs as a supplement to traditional affordable housing projects, which are often quite expensive to build.

Thanks to Measure HHH, the city of Los Angeles will contribute $1.2 billion over the next decade to build thousands of new permanent supportive housing units geared toward homeless residents. But that won’t come close to covering the amount of housing needed to meet demand from residents in need of an affordable place to live.

The ADU in Highland Park that the innovation team worked on will cost around $300,000 to construct, according to LA Más. That’s probably more than the average homeowner has on hand, but it’s well below the $425,000 it typically costs to build a single unit of affordable housing in California.

Officials are asking homeowners interested in finding out more about the program to reach out at