Solving Homelessness with Backyard Homes

New rules make it much easier to build a home in your backyard. The non-profit LA Más has developed a pilot program to support to homeowners build accessory dwelling unit (ADU) in their backyard who are willing to rent to a low income family.

Editor’s note: We got the following comment from staff at LA-Más concerning our title for this story and have added their comments to make it clear that this program is for current tenants in Section 8 housing in case there was any question. 

“Our Backyard Homes Project will be building ADUs to be rented to Section 8 tenants. Although some Section 8 tenants may in fact be transitioning out of homelessness, there are many others with vouchers that are not currently homeless – they are just low-income people that need an affordable unit. There are many different types of people that quality for Section 8 vouchers.

In contrast, the LA County ADU Pilot Program IS specifically intended to build ADUs for people transitioning out of homelessness. I can’t remember if I mentioned that program to you when we spoke, but there may have been some confusion because LA-Más is also working on that project as technical consultants,” wrote Avital Aboody, Community and Policy Lead, LA-Más, 

Efforts to solve the City’s homelessness and affordable housing crisis are taking shape on all fronts. Building a home in your own backyard for a family member or to rent to increase your income is not a new idea. Many houses in our neighborhoods have guest quarters or “granny flats.” And in the last few years, Los Angeles and the state of California have relaxed zoning to encourage homeowners to build more housing and increase density in single family residential neighborhoods while allowing homeowners to increase the value of their properties.

The Urban design non-profit firm  LA-Más  has developed an affordable house initiative called “The Backyard Homes Project,” designed to help homeowners build homes in their backyard to help create affordable housing while also helping homeowners build equity.

“This is a “one-stop-shop” incentive program that enables the average homeowner to contribute to our affordable housing. We will support homeowners in building an accessory dwelling unit (ADU) in exchange for renting their unit out to a Section 8 voucher holder for a minimum of 5 years, After five years, the unit can be used at the homeowners discretion,” explained Avital Aboody, LA-Más Community and Policy Associate.

LA-Más has partnered with – Genesis LA, Self-Help Federal Credit Union, Restore Neighborhoods LA (RNLA), Housing Authority for the City of Los Angeles (HACLA), LA Family Housing, St. Joseph Center, and Housing Rights Center.  LA-Más has packaged all the resources into one program to provide homeowners a “one-stop-shop” for the design, finance, and construction of a new ADU in the City of Los Angeles.

“We hope to have 4-6 homeowners selected who need financing and another 4-6 homeowners who have their own financing,” Avital Aboody, LA-Más Community and Policy Associate told the Buzz.

According to Aboody, there has been a great deal of interest in the program, but they are still taking applications from people who don’t need financing but would like the design and construction support.

Applications for the program have come from homeowners who live in all part of Los Angeles who are interested for a variety of reasons, Aboody told the Buzz.

“Some see the program as an easy way to build an ADU,” said Aboody. “Building an ADU adds to the value of a home and the Section 8 payment can help homeowners repay the cost of construction.”

Aboody said LA-Más developed the program after studying programs in other cities like Portland and Austin and conducting focus groups throughout the city. This is not a taxpayer supported program. LA-Más has assembled a coalition of private and foundation partners to fund the pilot program. They have created a simple program one pager, detailed program booklet, and design package. Applications can be submitted here and will be accepted until May 1st, 2019.

A screenshot from the LA-Más design package.

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About Patricia Lombard

Patricia Lombard is the co-editor and publisher of the Larchmont Buzz. Patty lives with her family in Fremont Place. She has been active in neighborhood issues since moving here in 1989. Her pictorial history, "Larchmont" for Arcadia Press is available at Chevalier's Books.

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