real estate adu santa cruz countyLocal News Real Estate 

County Launches Accessory Dwelling Unit Program

By Tom Andersen

Good news for Santa Cruz Mountains homeowners. In May, the County of Santa Cruz announced a program to assist homeowners in the unincorporated areas of the county with the process of adding an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) to their property. An ADU is a secondary, self-contained living unit with its own entrance, kitchen, bathroom, and bedroom, located on the same property as a primary single-family residence. They are sometimes called granny units or in-law units. 

The Accessory Dwelling Unit Incentives Program is a partnership between the county and the nonprofit Hello Housing and its HelloADU pilot program. The county has dedicated $670,000 toward the provision of “up to 100 hours of free individualized project management support to participating homeowners,” said Jennifer Duffy, president of Hello Housing.

That support will include project feasibility, project management, cost estimates, and contractor selection guidance to help participants navigate the process of the design, construction, and potential eventual rental of an ADU or a JADU (Junior Accessory Dwelling Unit). A JADU is a dwelling of up to 500 square feet, while an ADU can be up to 1,200 square feet. Additionally, an ADU must have a full kitchen, while a JADU will have a smaller efficiency kitchen. Properties with single-family homes can currently opt to build both an ADU and JADU on the same site. 

“While the idea of developing a second unit is compelling to many homeowners and can add income and increase property values, the process can be daunting. This is especially true for homeowners facing life transitions that make ADUs attractive, including new empty nesters, growing households, seniors transitioning to fixed incomes, and households seeking to create affordable housing for friends and family,” county spokesperson Jason Hoppin said in a press release.

The program looks promising as successful builds will increase the county’s housing stock while helping homeowners house family members, earn rental income, and increase the value of their properties. 

The HelloADU program is for new builds. For those residents in the unincorporated parts of the county seeking to remodel or upgrade existing units, the path is through traditional planning department channels. For Santa Cruz Mountains residents, until proposed improvements to the county’s planning department processes materialize, this is an option that may continue to be fraught with challenges related to septic, permitting history, and potential selective interpretation of complex county code. More information for those with existing ADUs can be found at

Hello ADU applications are available at The application period closes July 31, 2023. 

Local designers, architects, builders, or contractors who wish to join Hello Housing’s ADU Professionals registry can visit professional-network for information on how to participate. 

More information: and

tom andersen

Tom Andersen is a lifelong Felton resident, writer, woodworker, and martial arts instructor.

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