Get income from accessory dwelling units

During retirement, sources of retirement income typically come from Social Security and a retiree’s own savings. But seniors around the country are finding that adding a second, independent living space to their homes can provide welcome extra income as rentals. Called accessory dwelling units, or ADUs, these in-law units or cabins can also serve as private living quarters for aging parents or an adult child in transition.

Michael Litchfield, a certified green building professional and author of “In-Laws, Outlaws, and Granny Flats,” a primer on planning and building ADUs, calls them an intelligent solution to the problems of urban sprawl.

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New Avenue Homes: Going Big with Small

Green Corridor entrepreneur Kevin Casey is proof that the biggest ideas come in small packages – and in the field of energy efficiency, the smaller the better.

Casey was a graduate student at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business when he first became inspired by the idea of “net-zero” homes: dwellings that would emit no carbon dioxide and would create their own, self-sustaining energy source. His interest was two-fold: as a student and professional, Casey wanted to learn more about the potential intersection of modular home construction and clean technology. As a young person in the Bay Area (where 85% of families cannot afford a median-priced home), he was also motivated by the desire to create affordable housing. Casey had no substantial housing design experience in 2008 when inspiration hit, but that did not deter him from launching what is now New Avenue Homes. Three years later, Casey’s idea is a thriving clean tech business with big plans for very small houses.

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Wins for: Providing eco-chic housing, without building up or sprawling out.

From Micro to Macro: 2011 Eco Awards

2/ Micro: The Delaware House
Wins for: Providing eco-chic housing, without building up or sprawling out.

A new backyard cottage on Delaware Street in Berkeley provides city planning clues that scale beyond its tiny stature. Finished last fall, the 420-square-foot Delaware Cottage exemplifies “stealth infill”—in this case, the conversion of backyard lots into affordable housing units.

While mini cottages aren’t new to the community, this one claims net zero energy status, by featuring wider wall boards that pack more insulation and by running off nine solar panels on the main house. The cost of the cottage was $98,000. Owner Karen Chapple, associate professor of city and regional planning at UC Berkeley, recognizes that there are barriers to these dwellings, namely parking and permitting, but through research funded by the UC Transportation Center, she’s already identified more than 3,000 lots in Berkeley that could accommodate such units.

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New Avenue builds infill model

Picking the right word was everything for New Avenue’s affordable housing. Just the phrase “affordable housing” scared affluent neighborhoods fearful of multi-story blight.
Founder Kevin Casey needed something quaint, cozy, friendly — he needed to sell the idea of a “backyard cottage.”

Once armed with the right words to sell the housing, Casey could pursue his vision for meeting new housing needs. California will have to add 2 million more homes over the next decade, according to statistics from the California Department of Finance. By nestling new units into the backyards of high-demand urban areas, Casey hopes to meet the housing demand without tacking on commutes.

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Could There Be a Boom of Backyard In-law Cottages?

In the nearly three years I spent researching and writing a book about accessory dwelling units—In-laws, Outlaws, and Granny Flats: Your guide to turning one house into two homes—I thought I had seen every variation of designing and building ADUs out there. But as I was putting the book to bed, I came upon a developer in Berkeley, Kevin Casey, with a new twist. Namely, Casey’s start-up offers homeowners a turn-key ADU package that includes private financing, design, permit approval and construction. What’s more, he seems to be making a go of it, with a first backyard cottage garnering a lot of praise, and six more units in the pipeline. Now he’s looking for builders in other regions to partner with.

Whether Casey’s ADU model will thrive in other states depends on its surmounting some formidable barriers—particularly, zoning codes. But it should do well in Left Coast cities and suburbs from San Diego to Seattle, which are by and large receptive to second units. And it’s hard to argue with his numbers. To keep this blog brief, I will encapsulate four Q&A’s below and let the interview do the rest of the talking.

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Sustainable Consumption: The Challenge and Opportunity

In just twenty years, by the time today’s toddlers reach college, global consumption will have fundamentally changed: 2.6 billion new consumers will have joined the middle class, expecting and demanding the same quality of life that Americans enjoy today. Low-income consumers will represent a market of another $5 trillion.

According to the Global Footprint Network we would need five planets to sustain consumption if everyone lived like the average American and those numbers are based on resources available now. Availability of resources, from freshwater to indium, continues to decline. China’s announcement last month of further reductions in its exports of rare earth metals, critical for manufacturing everything from cell phones to electric cars, shows that companies are already facing serious limitations on resources. Clearly, something needs to change.

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Backyard solutions to urban planning issues

BERKELEY — The tiny cottage may have a big future, if a recent open house in Berkeley is any indication.

Some 500 visitors, including state and local elected officials, environmental leaders, representatives of the buildings trades, academics, neighbors and the just-plain-curious, flocked to a new, 420-square-foot cottage to examine it as a possible wave of the future.

The small, orange-colored home was built in the backyard of Karen Chapple, a University of California, Berkeley, associate professor of city and regional planning and faculty director of the Center for Community Innovation. She is heading a study funded by the UC Transportation Center to determine how many of these accessory homes could be built around five Bay Area Rapid Transit stations in the East Bay, and how they might affect the local economy.

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A Professor’s Tiny House Is a Model for Different Living

The San Francisco Chronicle features an article today about a tiny house with a big impact that is sitting in a professor’s backyard. Karen Chapple, an associate professor of city and regional planning at the University of California at Berkeley, worked with students in engineering and design to build a 450-square-foot house that is a “net-zero energy” structure — that is, through solar panels, it produces more energy than it uses.

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Berkeley zero net energy cottage deserves study

Karen Chapple’s just-built second home looks exactly like what it is: a cottage that packs 450 square feet of living space into a traditional shell with a pitched roof, warm wooden walls and a shaded front porch.

Old news – except that it sits tucked behind a century-old bungalow on a quiet Berkeley block with neighbors close on either side, stealth infill that in its own discreet way deserves study by every city where the need for housing outstrips the supply of obvious land.

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A Berkeley Professor’s Tiny Backyard Cottage

When Professor Karen Chappel asked some students in UC Berkeley’s College of Environmental Design to design her backyard cottage, they came up with the structure you see above: a 450-square-foot cottage that’s net-zero energy and incorporates solar panels.

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