Add an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) to your property

This article was published in the Sunday, June 4, 2023 edition of the Houston Chronicle.

An Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU), referred to as garage apartments, mother-in-law cottages and granny flats can be a stand-alone unit on a single-family lot, a garage conversion, or rooms built over your garage.

ADU’s can be great solutions allowing people to age in place or provide housing for caregivers, young couples and empty nesters.

When planning to build an ADU, it is important to understand the zoning and building regulations in your area. Houston’s code of ordinances refers to ADUs as “secondary dwelling units,” states that they can be up to 900 square feet for a detached unit or a unit above a garage in neighborhoods where deed restrictions permit such units. That is room for a two-bedroom ADU or a very spacious one-bedroom.  The average size is somewhere between 500 and 600 square feet. ADUs must contain a working kitchen and bathroom. They may be attached to the main house (as with a converted garage) or detached.

Despite owning the property where you are building, one restriction is known as a setback or setback requirement, which gives the town or municipality the ability to dictate the distance from the property line that a home can be built on. In our area, setbacks can vary depending on the Homeowner’s Association and City.  Also, your property may have utility easements that you have to take into consideration during the design and placement of the structure. Utility easements can be above ground level or below ground level, in either case your new structure must comply with these requirements.

An ADU needs to have one off street parking space of its own so the occupant can access their car at any time without the need to ask primary homeowners to move their cars.   A professional remodeler with experience in building ADU’s or garage conversions will be knowledgeable of all the zoning and building regulations in the areas they serve.

If your home happens to be in a flood zone, this will affect new construction. If you plan to build a stand-alone ADU in a flood zone you will need a stormwater management plan.

ADU’s increase the housing supply of communities, and results in more affordable rents and has a smaller impact than multifamily developments.

Once your remodeler explains the regulations in your area, the design and construction of your ADU can begin. It is important to work with experienced professionals to ensure a successful project outcome and so that your ADU is built to the highest standards of quality and safety.

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