DWELL Being – Vancouver, WA


Imagine a plan to provide comprehensive support and assistance to help 5,000 homeowners build new Auxilliary Dwelling Units (ADUs) in the Vancouver, Washington area over the next five to ten years. In Vancouver, BC, a third of single-family homes have ADUs, providing 25,000 additional units of housing. New ADUs in SW-WA will help address the housing crisis and build community resilience while retaining the essentially single-family character of our residential neighborhoods.


The City of Vancouver and Clark County both recently amended their codes to permit Auxiliary Dwelling Units (ADUs), also called ‘granny flats’ or ‘in-law apartments.’ In addition to the benefit of more housing, these ADUs will help make our community more self-reliant and less dependent on fossil fuel. Greater density in neighborhoods will support better sidewalks and bike paths, making streets more pedestrian and bike-friendly. Public transit will be able to expand as more people use it. This will support development of new options that use emerging technology such as self-driving taxi and jitney services. Families, and elders especially, will have more options and economic opportunities.


Villages that were built before cars provide living examples of climate-friendly neighborhoods where people live close to work, shops, schools and other gathering places. Many civically minded people and community organizations are working on ways to bring these village-living values to Vancouver. New ADUs will support these efforts.


But building an ADU can be challenging; especially for people who are undertaking a construction project for the first time. While professional real estate investors and experienced house flippers have lots of experience, they develop ADUs as investment properties which may not serve the community as well as ADUs built by local homeowners who are primarily invested in our community. It is in our collective interest to make sure that homeowners who want to build an ADUs get the practical assistance they need.


DWELL Being, Vancouver will bring together a group of knowledgeable professionals to help these homeowners succeed in building the new ADU housing we need to create a more resilient community for everyone. At every stage of the project, from initial decision-making to long-term rental management, community-minded locals choosing to build an ADU will have the support they need. We will identify and work with a select group of contractors and tradespeople to coordinate and streamline ADU building projects. 


People who are helping solve Vancouver’s housing shortage by using their equity in their home to build an ADU on their property should be as eligible for subsidies as developers. We will work with local agencies and other funding sources to obtain financial incentives for local homeowners building ADUs. People who are working to make our community more resilient by installing edible landscaping, reducing energy and water use should also have incentives and support. We all stand to benefit from these improvements.


We will develop a comprehensive program with step by step workshops for local homeowners building ADUs and a more resilient community. Our first panel discussions will be wide-ranging scoping sessions. There are a lot of topics to address, from big picture ideas about community resilience, social justice and addressing climate change, to practical information about zoning, the design process from early sketches to a building plan, estimating costs, securing financing, obtaining permits, hiring a contractor, creating a resilience property plan, managing and maintaining a rental unit.


Experts, including city and/or county planners, architects, builders, solar installers, lenders, master gardeners, arborists, and rental property managers will be invited to share their knowledge. Community stakeholders, including neighborhood associations, transit managers, elected officials and others will also be asked to take seats at the table. When the first cohort of 25 community members who are ready to begin building an ADU are enrolled, we will launch the next phase of the program. We will draw on a team of experts and work together to build, from start to finish, these first 25 new houses. As each cohort completes their ADUs, we will ask them to assist the next group. Within a year from the start we hope to have 100 graduates and many more homeowners ready to begin building their ADUs and a better Vancouver.