Everything you need to know about Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) in Boise

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So what is an ADU, and why does it matter in boise?

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Accessible Dwelling Units (ADUs) are quickly growing in popularity as more Treasure Valley homeowners recognize their potential. The pandemic coupled with red-hot real estate prices means more families are choosing to live together for convenience (hello, child care and aging in place!) or affordability for young adults. Others choose to build an ADU as a source of rental income that helps them afford their primary residence, and unfortunately, many end up being used as Airbnbs for out-of-state investors. Boise recently reduced restrictive zoning in order to make ADUs an appealing investment for yourself, your family, and the community.

An ADU, sometimes referred to as an “in-law suite,” is a secondary unit that shares a lot with a primary home on the same lot. Adding a structure can also add substantial value to your property. These smaller homes are also better for the environment since they take up less space and increase the density on existing residential lots. ADUs have their own kitchen, living room, and private entrance separate from the primary home. They might be built in a converted garage, an attached structure (like a basement with a separate entrance), or a detached structure (like a back-alley cottage). These units are not tiny homes, though they tend to be smaller-sized houses that can be ideal for renters. In 2020, the City of Boise permitted up to two bedrooms, making ADUs perfect for a rental or a cozy place for your parents to retire or your adult children to save up for a down payment.

ADUs offer convenience and affordability. The cost to construct is significantly cheaper than constructing or buying a full-sized home due to their size and sharing a lot. For potential landlords, sharing a lot makes the rental easy to maintain–no more traveling across the city to go check on a rental! Yet, you can still enjoy your privacy with completely separate entrances. The Boise area has a steady market need for rentals with newcomers joining the community every day, and while ADUs don’t solve all of our affordable housing woes, they are one important tool. The City of Boise believes that ADUs may be an effective way to increase the number of rentals in our community.

ADUs are also a perfect solution for multigenerational housing. Their smaller size is ideal for a retiree or two who are ready to settle down in an easy-to-maintain home near family and friends but still retain their independence. ADUs tend to be cheaper overall than paying for an assisted living facility or nursing home. Multigenerational housing can also be an efficient way for a family to lower costs by splitting expenses. Living in a multigenerational household can strengthen family relationships which is incredibly beneficial, especially for children (and their parents who benefit from more frequent date nights).

If you’re considering building or converting a space into an ADU, note that building regulations and design guidelines will apply. The maximum square footage is 700 square feet or 10% of the parcel size, and the utility connection must be completed to code. 

As Idaho’s only woman-owned, eco-friendly design + build firm, Ethos Design + Build | Remodel is here to help make sure your new house meets all regulations while making your vision a reality. We have a long history of working on modular homes as well as ADUs – our CEO Sarah Cunningham just added one to her Boise Bench property. Whether you want to make your home accessible for your parents or trendy for young renters, we can customize the build to suit your needs and create the perfect investment that can benefit you, your family, and the community.

Lastly, if you happen to be at the Idaho Remodeling and Design Show at the Boise Centre this weekend, I’ll be giving a presentation on Saturday at 1 p.m. that explores ADUs and why people build them.


Erin Sorensen

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