The Importance of Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU)

Accessory Dwelling UnitsFar Too Many Bay Area Residents Are at Risk of Displacement. Rising housing costs continue to ravage the community, placing a massive financial strain on many. Homeowner cost burdens have sharply risen in the past few decades, with Black and Latinx homeowners facing the highest cost burden out of all of the racial groups. 

A big reason for this is the explicitly discriminatory housing policies ingrained in U.S. history. Exclusionary housing ordinances, redlining, and restrictive covenants were just some of the many policies placed in the 20th century that led to the massive inequities we see in housing today. 

With housing prices on the rise, it is more important than ever to reverse these damages and find sustainable solutions for affordable housing, especially in the Bay where housing is becoming increasingly scarce. One of these solutions is the building of accessory dwelling units or ADUs. 

An ADU is a residential unit that can be added to an existing home, whether in the form of a garage, a freestanding cottage, or a part of the main house that has been converted into an additional unit. While smaller than a typical unit, there are many benefits to constructing more ADUs:

  • For one, it is a win-win situation: providing additional income for homeowners and affordable housing for seekers
  • ADUs are also significantly less costly to build than traditional units, meaning the expansion of available housing in our community. 
  • ADUs are particularly suited well for couples, small families, and seniors, providing homeowners with the opportunity to house their extended family, bringing families together and keeping them close while still maintaining the privacy and space of a separate unit.

By providing an extra income to the homeowners of the single-family unit the ADU is built on, ADUs could be an opportunity to boost the wealth of households. While white families are significantly more likely to own a single-family home and the resources needed to build an ADU onto their property, the City of Oakland plans to create targeted policies and programs to ensure that people of color and lower-income households will benefit from ADUs. 

ADUs in Oakland are especially important because nearly one-third of homeowners are cost-burdened, and this burden falls disproportionately on Black and Latinx community members. 

In the past decade alone there has been a 24% decrease in the Black population of Oakland, and housing prices are one of the most significant drivers of residential movement and forced displacement. Because ADUs are a low-cost way to add more affordable housing into the community, they reduce displacement risks for lower-income residents and stabilize neighborhoods. They are also significantly quicker and less costly to build, providing communities with an efficient and sustainable solution to the housing crisis. 

With all of these benefits in mind, RNHS has partnered with the Chan Zuckerberg Initiatives and the City of Oakland to create the Keys to Equity program, an effort to build more ADUs in East and West Oakland. This program will provide education modules, financial counseling, help with construction and project management assistance to support homeowners building ADUs in Oakland. 

Learn more about what RNHS and the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative are doing to create a better future for Oakland. 


(1) Housing burden: Bay Area Equity Atlas. Bay Area Equity Atlas. (n.d.).

(2) Roots, Race & Place. Berkeley HAAS Institute, 2019

(3) Oakland ADU Initiative, Existing Conditions and Barriers Report, 2020.

(4) Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) and Junior Accessory Dwelling Units (JADUs). California Department of Housing and Community Development. (n.d.).

(5)  A Roadmap Toward Equity: Housing Solutions for Oakland, California. PolicyLink, 2016

Richmond Neighborhood Housing Services, Inc. (510) 237-6459