Potential of ADUs


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ADUs provide an opportunity for homeowners to create flexible living spaces for family or caretakers or generate income through long or short term rental. However, the prospect of renovating and construction, or welcoming a stranger into your personal space or managing the property might be intimidating or daunting. This session hopes to relieve some of these concerns by offering various perspectives from ADU home owners, property managers, and groups who share their experience with everything from building to renting. Through our series we have been exploring the role ADUs can play in realizing a healthy housing ecosystem.

This is even more important than ever given today’s context of COVID, the housing and climate crises, and social inequalities throughout. The beauty of ADUs are that they are made by and for the community, within an existing community. They also raise interesting questions of shared space, small scale building challenges, homeowners as developers and the tenant experience. This session is all about the people who own and live in these small homes, the impact they have had on their lives, and the barriers and opportunities they present.

Learn more about this series here.

When people think of ADUs, they usually think of homes or living spaces. However, secondary units and smaller footprint buildings don’t have to be limited to those uses — they can be community gathering spaces, make use of temporarily available land for gathering or commercial activities, and be a way to seamlessly integrate small-scale commercial operations into otherwise unused spaces. ACUs, or Accessory Commercial Units, can allow for schools, small offices, shops or small producer workshops placed in neighborhoods that need and support them. They open up new possibilities of revenue to support historic communities and revitalize neighborhoods by creating walkable, accessibly-scaled shops and businesses.

Their size is approachable enough to allow for community building, creating opportunities for educating homeowners on building techniques and maintenance, and building skills and capacity in individuals and collectives. As a physical asset, they also offer opportunities for wealth building and neighborhood stability by allowing lower income homeowners avenues to build and create financial health, older community members to age in place, and multigenerational families to grow together. This conversation imagines how these small building types might create more vibrant, skilled, equitable and wealth-building communities.

Learn more about this series here.

Hosted by:


Reneé Schomp

Napa Sonoma ADU Center

Renee focuses on supporting homeowners to build ADUs in Napa and Sonoma Counties through collaboration with local jurisdictions, nonprofits, and the private sector with a goal of increasing housing affordability in the community. She lives in an ADU.

Guest Speakers:

At the Center for Elders’ Independence, Lenore works to empower frail, low-income seniors to live independently through an innovative model of healthcare and medical services. She lives in an ADU.

“When my little neighbor tells me he’s going to the store, I always have a list. There’s nothing more gratifying than having this young man show up at my door with a big smile on his face helping me get my groceries. His mom assures me it means a lot to him too.”

- Lenore McDonald

Olesia Chikunova

Olesia’s concierge home service company aims to improve communication between builders and homeowners through an efficient and transparent process. Olesia became an ADU Specialist after helping a client navigate the ADU build process.

“I got myself an ADU specialist certificate because I was curious and inspired by how much flexibility it gives families to face whatever life throws in their direction.”

- Olesia Chikunova

Lark Ferrell

City of Napa
As Housing Manager of the City of Napa, Lark has designed affordable housing programs that utilize home-share match-ups and ADU incentives and understands the role a city must take to encourage more ADU development and occupancy.

"I love the concept of intergenerational housing. We often found that younger families could not afford to live near their grandparents because the neighborhood became too expensive for new homeowners. ADUs make it possible for these families to reconnect."

- Lark Ferrell

Action steps you can take

  1. Watch another webinar: Check out the webinars and resources from the Napa Sonoma ADU Center for homeowners and builders living in those counties.
  2. Become an ADU Specialist: Kol Peterson, an ADU expert, offers ADU courses for real estate professionals, homeowners, and builders to learn the ins and outs of building, renting and selling a property with an ADU..
  3. Learn more about property management: Familiarize yourself with California Tenant and Landlord Responsibilities to make renting safe and successful for you and your tenants. LandlordCert.org also offers a HUD-approved landlord education course to help you be prepared for your new role. 
  4. Talk to other ADU landlords and tenants. Especially if they are your neighbors! There are also communities for those interested in building and owning an ADU like 'How to ADU' Or if you live in Napa and looking for tenants or housing, check out Napa’s Home Sharing Match-Up Program.
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