Skip to content
CityLab
Housing

How California Set Off a Backyard Apartment Boom

With a state law easing restrictions on accessory dwelling units, granny flats are proliferating in L.A. and other cities — and pre-fab options may make these tiny houses even more common.

Backyard apartments by Abodu arrive by delivery to be assembled on site in San Jose.

Backyard apartments by Abodu arrive by delivery to be assembled on site in San Jose.

Photographer: Adam Rouse/courtesy of Abodu

Now that they’re fully legal, backyard homes are big business in California.

For years, permitting figures languished for granny flats, garage apartments and other types of accessory dwelling units, or ADUs, thanks to local restrictions that forced homeowners to submit to cumbersome discretionary approvals before local boards. Back in 2016, California passed a state law that required cities to ease these regulations and grant permits by set standards. Two more bills that followed in 2017 relaxed the rules around ADU construction. That’s when backyard apartments took off.