More homeowners are building backyard housing units amid Bay Area housing crisis

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- Construction crews broke ground on Paul Boehm's 538 sq. ft. ADU in January. Short for Accessory Dwelling Unit, the granny-flat or in-law unit is growing in popularity across the Bay Area.

"I've never been a trend-setter until now," Boehm told ABC7 News.

The City of San Jose took just 16 applications to build ADUs in 2016. However, new laws have made it easier and less expensive to build the units. So, in 2018, the number of applications in San Jose skyrocketed to 350.

Boehm and his wife, Rosa, decided to build the one-bedroom unit in their San Jose backyard to keep their daughter and son-in-law close.

"They don't make tech salaries," he said. "In other places, they'd probably be well-enough off that they could afford to buy a house. Well, they can't, here in the valley."

He explained the couple was looking to buy in Sacramento.

"They spent some time looking at homes. Rosa and I had a very quick conversation and said, 'Oooh, I don't really want them to move away,'" he added.

So, he offered to put an ADU in the family's backyard. The Boehm's moved into the home in 1998.

"It was easy for them to decide to accept our offer," he said. "And it was easy for us to come up with this solution for them, and for us."

A recent report ranked the San Jose metro as the most expensive area in the country to buy a home.

"Not everybody can work in technology. There are people that need to work in services, there are people that work in other areas, government and so-forth," Boehm said. "Building an ADU is one way that we can reach out to the people who have more limited income and would really appreciate staying closer to home."

Stanley Acton, founder of Acton ADU is behind the Boehm's unit.

"The 'keeping the families together' piece of it seems to be a really big part of this," Acton said. "I had no idea when I started this that it would be such a big driver, but it really is inspiring to see."

Acton has worked in the construction agency for 30 years. He said he's always been inspired by small architecture, and said ADUs are one answer to the Bay Area's housing crisis.

"What Acton ADU is doing is providing housing for those that probably wouldn't have the opportunity to live in the Bay Area," Acton said.

He explained the company has eight ADUs in design, another eight were just recently completed.

"People tend to call Acton ADU for family reasons," he said. "Either grandparents, or kids returning from college, or disabled kids. But the majority of it is family-related."

For Boehm, he and his wife will live in the main house for the time being. Their daughter and son-in-law will reside in the ADU until grandchildren force a switch.

Parents in My Backyard, or "PIMBY" will be the next trend Boehm will take on.

"We're not at the 'PIMBY' stage yet, it's still my daughter in the backyard at this point," Boehm said. "But yeah, that might happen."

He added, "We'd be happy to live here."

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