Backyard homes could be answer to Bay Area housing crisis

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- ABC7 News is committed to Building a Better Bay Area and giving more attention to issues that affect our quality of life, like the Bay Area's housing crisis.

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What some people might just see as a backyard, others are seeing as an opportunity to solve the Bay Area's housing shortage, by adding another unit to a property.

Mimi Tran-Zambetti is hoping to build an extra unit to rent.

"It seemed like a no-brainer," she said. "I'm running a startup out of my home right now, I've always been financially savvy and I wanted to own a home pretty early on so being able to get monthly rental income without hassle on my part seemed like a done deal."

These extra units are called ADUs, or Accessory Dwelling Units. You might know them better as granny flats, in-law units or backyard cottages.

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Changes in state law in 2016 made it easier to get them built.

Tran Zambetti sees them as way to reign in her own high housing costs. She's teaming up with a Bay Area housing startup Rent The Backyard.

Co-founder Spencer Burleigh said, "What we do is build studio apartments in your backyard at no cost to you, rent them out and split the rental profits with you 50-50."

How easy are they to build?

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"There are about 300 to 450 square feet depending on how big your yard is," said co-founder Brian Bakerman. "They're made in a matter of months with minimal disruption to the homeowner."

In the Bay Area, a homeowner can expect to make $10,000 a year off of new additions.

South Bay communities are seeing some of the biggest need for more affordable housing. In 2017, San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo set an ambitious goal of building 25,000 homes by 2022, which includes 10,000 affordable homes. The number of applications in the city has skyrocketed.

But other cities around the Bay Area have struggled to get the programs off the ground. That's where Vallejo-based Blu Homes hopes to make it easier.

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They've been making prefabricated modular cabana's that can be built in a factory and then installed on a property providing an instant ADU for years.

CEO Zephan McMinn says ADUs have become so popular, they recently announced a new home design that includes an extra unit.

"Our new product, the Origin 1900, is actually one of the first modular homes where it comes with the junior accessory dwelling unit, as a part of the house," said McMinn.

The new homes start at just over $400,000, not including the land.

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"Being able to bring in a fully legally, rentable unit inside of an existing full-sized home, it's just like getting more bang for your buck," said McMinn.

No matter how you add it up, building one of these units is just one quick way we could Build A Better Bay Area by providing more housing.

Take a look at ABC7's latest stories and videos about efforts to Build a Better Bay Area.

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