Free new guide: The ABCs of ADUs

by | May 3, 2019

The ABCs of ADUs

Over the past year, I’ve been working with AARP to research and write “The ABCs of ADUs – A guide to Accessory Dwelling Units – and how they expand options for people of all ages.”  It’s now finished, and you can visit to download it or order free printed copies.

Why is AARP focused on supporting ADUs (and other in-fill housing options)?  Here’s a snippet from Danielle Arigoni, who leads their Livable Communities team:

We at AARP see tremendous opportunity in the promotion of ADUs.  Many of our states are actively pursuing better codes at the local levels;  many are hosting informational workshops on how to inform and equip people to permit and construct them; and several are directly funding pilot projects through our Community Challenge grant program.  In addition, our AARP Policy shop is incorporating ADUs actively into their “Future of Housing” research and analysis.

But a piece like this will be – I think – transformational in helping people to quickly and easily understand the concept, and then move to action.  We all know that, while ADUs offer a great solution for older adults, they absolutely benefit whole communities. 

Here’s to lots of great locally-driven ADU work to come in the near future!

Our hope is that this guide will serve as a really accessible primer for elected officials, policymakers, local leaders, homeowners, consumers and others to learn what accessory dwelling units are and how and why they are built. It also suggests best practices for how towns, cities, counties and states can include ADUs in their mix of housing options (including some specific zoning recommendations on p. 15, for the code geeks out there).

We made it short, colorful and accessible on purpose – so it’s the sort of thing AARP members (and anyone else) can easily digest.  If they like what they read, it’s got enough heft that folks can take it with them to their local planning department and ask: “Can we do these here?”  And: “if not, why not?”  And: “Here are some resources to start the process…”.

With thousands of jurisdictions around the country, each with their own zoning code, it’s going to take lots of small initiatives to (re)legalize ADUs broadly.  AARP probably has members in every one of those jurisdictions – so they’re a great group for helping to spread the word.

This publication has been out for just a couple week now, and is getting snapped up rapidly where boxes of paper copies have been sent (the American Planning Association conference in San Francisco and ADU gatherings in Washington, DC and Charlottesville, VA).  On May 8th, it will be featured in the AARP Livable Communities newsletter that goes out to 80,000 members.

As part of this project, Lina Menard researched and wrote up several new case studies of completed ADUs from around the country.  We couldn’t use them in their entirety within the publication due to page length constraints.  But they’ll ultimately be posted on – so watch for some great new case studies shortly.

Enjoy!  Spread the word.  And once again, the download/ordering link is at