They seem to be popping up everywhere these days: ADUs, or accessory dwelling units.  Taking many forms—from converted garages and basements to detached cottages—ADUs are basically small, additional homes built on a single-family lot.

In desirable locations where housing costs are on the rise, like La Plata County, ADUs can make economic sense.  During a pandemic, they can also provide living space for families to be closer together, or even extra room for people who are working or attending school at home.

Adding an ADU to your Southwest Colorado property can give you:

Family Space

A recent article from the AARP website covered the boom in “backyard dwellings.” Some property owners opt for prefabricated sheds, especially if only a small space is needed without plumbing.  Modern sheds are especially suitable for home offices, studios, and play/school space for kids.  These are not ADUs, strictly-speaking, but they do offer important elbow room in the right situation.

The AARP article quoted an ADU specialist who noted that if you need a fully-functional home with a kitchen, then a true ADU is in order.  They cost more to build, but if family members can move in and save the cost of another house, apartment, or retirement facility, the number should pencil out over time.

Income and Value

Some homeowners choose to build an additional dwelling on their property to rent out.  An article in the Durango Herald a few years ago profiled a local resident in the midst of a project that would ultimately become a rental.  The piece noted the growing interest in ADUs in La Plata County, and since then even more local neighborhoods have been approved for this type of “infill housing.”

When it comes to deciding whether to move forward with an ADU, another consideration is value.  A detached living space would add value to your property and appeal to prospective buyers down the road.

An Accessory Dwelling Unit can add value to your property and be a source of income.

Flexibility for the Future

Along with giving you flexibility in how you use the extra space, your Durango ADU could very well accommodate your family’s changing needs.  The AARP article included a graphic showing that a young couple could rent out an ADU for extra income at first, use it as additional family space later on (perhaps for an adult child), then move into the space and rent out the larger home as they grow older.

In this way, it’s possible that a well-planned ADU might spare you the cost and headaches of moving one or more times and keep you in the neighborhood you know and love over the years.

Community Benefits

There are a variety of community benefits associated with ADUs beyond the advantages for property owners.  In large cities where housing is limited and expensive, such as the big metro areas on the West Coast, ADUs provide much needed homes with small footprints.  According to the AARP, California is the biggest market with the Pacific Northwest following.  Even though La Plata County is a much smaller market and trends may be different in scale, housing challenges are much the same here.

Not only that, incorporating more dwellings into established neighborhoods allows new residents to use existing infrastructure and doesn’t impact the character of the area the way new construction would.  It also reduces sprawl.

Next Steps for You

If you’re ready to find out more, perhaps the first step is to learn the particulars of building an ADU in La Plata County.  Because regulations are constantly changing, it’s best to contact the La Plata County building department for up-to-date information.

Next you might want to talk to a few property owners who have built ADUs in Durango and nearby.  If you don’t know any, don’t be afraid to ask around and even knock on a door or two.  Many people who have experienced the joys and challenges of building are happy to share their stories.

As you get underway, don’t hesitate to contact our members in architecture and single-family building.  Many have experience with ADUs and can help you decide if the project you have in mind makes sense.

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