Karen Chapple, chair of urban and regional planning at the University of California at Berkeley, says major social upheavals often catalyze changes in living conditions. She built an ADU in her back yard during the country’s last major collapse – the 2008 recession.
“Crises like the one we are in right now are driving the action,” she said. “It makes sense if the pandemic leads to an increase in ADU use.”
Even if the decision to build a unit is spurred on by the fact that mom and dad want to stay close together during or after the pandemic, there are also longer-term benefits, Wegmann said.
“If you look at it as an investment, the rents these houses can get, especially in a hot market location, will pay back the cost of building much faster than other types of housing,” he said. “From this point of view, the economy seems to be an absolute blast. Why don’t these things just gush out by the thousands? “
Mr. Wegmann believes that when combined with new laws like California’s, critical mass will make all the difference. “Once the business model has become more standardized and organized and companies know how to get these projects under control and implement them, the ADUs will really boom,” he said.
And of course there are social benefits too. “We’re definitely paying the cost, but benefits like childcare and family meals are invaluable to us,” said Ms. Torrado.
She was hoping her parents would settle permanently on her property last year, especially since she and her husband welcomed their first baby that summer, but the virus delayed her move from Puerto Rico. Meanwhile, Ms. Torrado’s sister Lorna lives in the house that will become her parents.