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Prefab 'Granny Units' Eliminate Red Tape For Homeowners Who Need More Space

REDWOOD CITY (KPIX) - A start-up company on the Peninsula is offering homeowners a chance to place an "Accessory Dwelling Unit" or ADU in their backyard without having to deal with the bureaucracy of city hall.

When the legislature voted in 2017 to encourage granny units on existing home sites, there was a lot of interest from the public but that cooled off once homeowners discovered the difficulty of the permitting process.

"Really what we've done is we've boiled down the process in a homeowner's backyard to a simple two-week install process," said John Geary, co-founder of a new company called Abodu.

Their model ADU, on display in Redwood City, is a 500-square foot, one-bedroom home designed to be installed on an existing home site in about 2 weeks time, rather than the months required for normal construction.

"Our units come fully constructed on site," said Geary. "The entire unit is finished in a factory, it comes on the back of a truck to a homeowner's location. We have a crane waiting there and install it in their backyard."

The prefab units come with a modern kitchen, spacious bedroom, bathroom with a full-size shower and a comfortable living and dining room. But one thing missing is red tape. Abodu is working with City Planning Departments to make sure their units completely conform to all building requirements and San Jose, for one, has now designated Abodu's ADU as "pre-approved" so the permitting process can be done in a single day.

"So, really all the work that's needed in the homeowner's backyard before the unit is delivered is just two weeks of pouring the foundation and connecting it to the utilities required," Geary said. "And then we crane the unit onto the foundation, hook it up and we're out of their backyard."

Co-founder Eric McInerney says backyard homes are becoming popular with people who want to make space for their grown kids to live in, with the ADU becoming a retirement home later on.

"So they can move into it eventually and have smaller space that they can downsize, and then have their kids move into the main home and stay close to the family," he said.

San Jose officials want to add 25,000 new units by 2022 and they believe the best place to do that is on land where homes already exist.

So, how does installing an ADU affect someone's property tax assessment? The answer is, the home valuation will only be increased by the construction cost of the ADU which, Abodu estimates for its unit would increase taxes between $1,000 and $2000 per year.

The company's founders say they're ready to begin construction of the first five units on order and they expect them to be completed and installed by the end of the year.

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