An ADU (accessory dwelling unit) refers to affordable housing that is built upon a land already owned by a homeowner. Essentially, they are secondary housing units built close to a primary home. They can be used for private purposes or rented out on a short-term basis to gain passive income.

They are a popular project for homeowners since they come without key costs like paying for land, parking space, or other infrastructures like elevators and driveways.

In California, ADUs might commonly be referred to by many other names, including granny flats, backyard cottages, secondary units, and several others.

In what different ways are Californians using ADUs?

Traditionally, ADUs were built to accommodate aging parents who needed living space in close proximity to other family members. This explains why they have earned the moniker of ‘granny flats.’ Of course, some ADUs in California are still used for this purpose. However, nowadays they are used in a variety of ways:

  • An extra housing unit for rent

    Many Californians choose to rent their ADU out on a platform like Airbnb to people looking for a vacation home. So, this can be a great way to earn extra passive income. It might also be worth looking into renting it out on a longer-term basis to a tenant.

  • A guest home

    If you have the time and funds to dedicate to it, your ADU can make it a wonderful place for family and friends to stay.

  • A luxury backyard bungalow

    Again, if budget allows, some Californians set up their ADU as a luxurious bungalow in their backyard. For private use, it makes for a relaxing change of scenery from the primary residence. Also, if you have a swimming pool in your backyard, you could set up your ADU in close proximity as a ‘poolside bungalow’.

  • A workspace

    In the new age, working from home has become increasingly commonplace. Therefore, you can convert your ADU into a meditative work or study space. Complete with desks, chairs, and all amenities you need for productive work, it has become trendy to create a workspace away from your primary residence.

  • A couples’ retreat

    Some Californians are building romantic retreats with their ADUs. Their smaller size makes them perfect for couples. Therefore, you can lovingly decorate them to provide a chilled-out space for private use. These could also be rented out to couples looking for a romantic getaway.


In case you have architectural, structural, and MEP design requirements, or need a modular design for your home, feel free to contact us.  We provide you with the full permit set design + T24.

Jack Vale is a writer from Happy Writers, Co.