The number of grandparents taking the ADU or converted housing path in the Sacramento region is way up   

Photograph by Johnny Cohen

By Madison Flewellyn

More and more people in Sacramento are opting to move into multigenerational homes, or build accessory dwelling units – better known as ADUs – to keep family members close them while avoiding painful housing prices. Advocates for this move say it also adds property value to their existing homes. 

About 56,000 grandparents in the four-county Sacramento region lived in the same home as their grandchildren in 2022, a number that’s up by 11,500, or 26%, from 2010, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. 

“These opportunities have always been available, they just weren’t as common in the past because housing in the past used to be affordable,” said Joy Yip, a realtor in the Sacramento area for almost 20 years. 

Yip explained there are many ways families have been getting creative to accommodate extra members: Converting garages and attic spaces into rooms, adding extra square footage to the home by building onto the home, building ADUs or even building on top of existing structures like garages. 

In the past, Sacramento County had a number of restrictions on adding any sort of additional units to a home to accommodate more people. This has since changed as the prices of homes in Sacramento have skyrocketed

“Realizing that housing is not as affordable, they passed more laws to allow it and permit it,” Yip noted. “So, there’s a little bit more loose regulations so that’s why it’s become more popular.”

And in moment of unwavering inflation and stagnant wage growth, that can matter to many families.

“A lot of facilities right now for the elderly, depending on the level of care they need, can run anywhere from $6,000 to 10,000 a month,” Yip wen ton. “So, by joining the household, it helps alleviate that financial burden and it makes sense for them financially to be able to do that.”

Sacramento resident Samantha Clay recently moved into a multigenerational home so her mom could be closer to her.  

“We wanted more space, not only for our kids, but to be closer with my mom,” said Clay. 

Clay moved from a 1,400-square-foot home with her husband and two children into an almost 2,700-square-foot multigenerational home. It has a door that connects to her mom’s side of the house. Her mother also has a kitchenette, a living room, a washer and dryer and a bedroom with a closet and bathroom. 

“My mom has been living by herself and with my brother and my dad passing it has helped her physically and socially to be around family,” Clay reflected, adding how beneficial and important it is to her that the children grow up around their grandparents while also being able to monitor their health. 

Though the house was $672,000, both she and her mom put their homes up for sale to afford it. With extra left over, Clay was able to pay off her debts and add renovations to the new home. 

“We were able to put a pool in the house, get the backyard done, the front yard done, and just be able to be more financially comfortable,” Clay said. 

For families who don’t want to move, if they have the space for it, building an ADU is an option. 

“A lot of times people are on a budget so they’re trying to put a roof over their heads to meet their needs at the most economical price possible,” John Aduna, a veteran real estate broker, pointed out.

Aduna focuses on manufactured homes and ADUs and works for a company that helps families find the most-affordable options in the space. He says he can get an ADU on a property in four to six weeks, ranging from $69,000 to $250,000, depending on the square-footage and amenities. 

“In real estate, in general, there’s obviously really low inventory, Aduna acknowledged. “So, this is a way to create inventory or a place to stay.”

Though most families go down this route to keep members closer, such housing types create more property value and have an opportunity to generate income. 

“The ADU is an improvement as far as bedrooms, bathrooms and square-footage, it definitely will add value to the property,” Aduna emphasized. “The county will recognize the singular family lot as not just a single family but also with the axillary dwelling so multiple use or multiple dwellings are on the property.”

For example, if someone lists a home at 2,000-square-feet, but has a 1,000-square-foot ADU, then the home could be listed at 3,000-square-feet. 

Yip agrees, detailing how families can rent out additional units to make extra income. 

“It creates more value because let’s just say they have a house near a college and they rent it out to a college student, that’s generating income for them,” Yip said. “As the next generation of retirees starts, these are a lot of conversations that I’m having regularly, so you’ll start to see more and more about it.”

For Clay, she has decided to use her attached unit for her family– her mom, then her husband’s parents, and then even her children when they get older. 

“I think it helps financially just with the way the economy is going,” Clay observed, “but we did it more for the benefits of health for my mom.”

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