County of Santa Cruz Releases Interactive ADU Toolkit

The County of Santa Cruz has released an interactive toolkit making it easier for homeowners to design, permit and construct Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs), which can be a more affordable housing option for Santa Cruz County families.

Available at, the toolkit includes a summary of recently revised regulations designed to make it easier to build ADUs, a cost and cash flow estimator, guides and FAQs about design, construction and financing, and more. It also includes a GIS tool allowing property owners to instantaneously determine if their property can have an ADU and the maximum allowed size.

Financial assistance to build an ADU is available under two new programs. Under direction of the County Board of Supervisors, the County is making up to $40,000 available as a forgiveable loan to applicants who agree to make their ADU affordable to those making up to 80 percent of area median income for a period of 20 years. Through the “My House My Home” program, the County has also partnered with Habitat for Humanity Monterey Bay and Senior Network Services to assist low-income seniors interested in building ADUs to create extra income and remain in their homes.

The ADU toolkit is designed to assist residents with the County’s simplified and streamlined entitlement process. Under the new rules, most  residential lots in the unincorporated area with an existing single-family home are  potentially eligible for an ADU, which can range from a remodeled section of an existing home, to a separate structure up to 1200 square feet in size. One popular and cost effective choice is to convert an existing garage to an ADU.

The County has also created downloadable guides on “ADU Basics”, an “ADU Design Guide”, and an “ADU Financing Guide.” Collectively, the guides provide answers to many common questions without requiring a trip to the County’s Planning Department. Visitors to the County’s website will find design ideas, floor plans and financing information.

During the last decade, California has built an average of 80,000 homes a year, far below the 180,000 units needed every year to keep up with the rate required to meet projected needs through 2025. Also known as granny flats, in-law units, backyard cottages, secondary units and more,  ADUs are an innovative, affordable and effective option for addressing California’s housing shortfall.

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