Marin Voice: Help ease the housing crisis and earn some money, too

POSTED: 1/20/2019

Author: Michael Hagerty and Linda Jackson

Publication: Marin IJ

Marin has a housing crisis, but most people don’t know that they can help heal that crisis and earn extra income by converting an unused bedroom into a Junior Accessory Dwelling Unit (or “JADU,” pronounced Jay-Doo.)

New state laws streamline planning requirements and permit fees, so we are now offering free “JADU Expos” so that homeowners can get free advice from architects, builders, mortgage lenders and rental specialists.

With a JADU, a homeowner can earn additional income, downsize into the smaller unit, house a family member or friend, exchange the unit for services rendered, have a caregiver nearby, enjoy an onsite neighbor, and/or have the security of an occupied house when traveling.

Renting the unit at market rate generates extra income of $1,200 to $1,600 per month for the homeowner and pays off the cost of conversion quickly.

A JADU requires converting an existing bedroom to add an outside entrance, a mini-kitchen, and a lockable door between the new unit and the main living area to ensure privacy. Our JADU Expos help break this process into three steps: plan, build and rent.

In the planning step, consider which bedroom is best to designate as the rental. Where shall the outside entrance be placed? Will the bathroom be adjoined, shared or is a new bathroom needed? Then the owner should ask a builder or an architect to visit and give a rough estimate of cost – getting their advice in the process.

Next, the owner or builder goes to the planning and building departments for the streamlined permits and pays the greatly reduced fees. No expensive blueprints are needed. Approval for a JADU permit can often be completed in a day!

In the second phase, the homeowner hires a builder to add the unit’s new entrance, add plumbing for a small sink and fit in a small kitchen. With a double-locked door in place between the main house and the new unit for privacy, the unit is complete.

Costs for making these changes can be small. For example, Amazon sells “all-in-one-kitchens” with a small sink, refrigerator and stove top for as little as $1,000, and the cost of a plumber adding water lines and drain for the sink can be similar.

In the third phase, the homeowner can take photos and list the unit online for rent, or have help from a nonprofit, such as Covia or Community Action Marin. They will screen renters, help write the rental agreement, and will mediate in case of any future disagreements.

By adding a JADU, you help solve many of the problems Marin faces. Renters will have more affordable housing and less of a commute to local jobs. Marin’s first-responders, teachers and service workers will be able find homes in the county where they work. And, the planet benefits with reduced carbon emissions from commuter traffic.

If you own an extra bedroom, or know someone who can use the extra income, please come to the JADU Expo. The first is scheduled for 9 to 11 a.m. Feb. 7 at Whistlestop in San Rafael. A second JADU Expo will be held from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. March 30 at Novato City Hall.

Find out more about the JADU Expos at Marin County Supervisor Kate Sears writes: “I hope every homeowner with an extra bedroom will consider the option of creating a JADU. JADUs are a win-win for homeowners who benefit from extra income and for renters needing a place to live in Marin’s tight housing market.”

Michael Hagerty, of Novato, is a member of the Marin County Commission on Aging. Linda Jackson, of San Rafael, is program director of the Aging Action Initiative of Marin

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