Among the most progressive housing policy in all of the United States is located in the Pacific Northwest, namely 2 cities - Portland, Oregon, and Seattle, Washington.
At the end of June, I had spent time in these 2 cities to learn about their stance towards housing intensification and second suite policy - they refer to them more as Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs). The idea is to try and bring successful investment solutions back here in the GTA.
Although both of these cities face many housing challenges similar to any medium or large city, they have been able to do one very important thing which many cities struggle with.
They are able to bridge Design & Construction with Finance & Real Estate. In many cases, the issues aren’t so much the design aspect of the ADU’s, but rather the question of how to make it a financially viable real estate product that fit within the constraints of local by-laws.
I’d like to share examples of really cool projects seen in both these cities, many of which are creative strategies that can be employed by both investors or homeowners to create good housing options, and turn a decent profit.
The 3rd leg of my trip took me to Vancouver, BC, which is the 2nd most expensive city in the world (after Hong Kong). That’s saying quite a bit.
Their policies have changed quite drastically recently, with some very interesting options for investors. Will save this for the next article, but here’s a hint: “condoizing” individual suites within a single house, and then selling them individually.
The first stop was Portland, Oregon. Despite the recent political insanity, it’s a very progressive city in terms of housing, with nice, small walkable city blocks, and great public transit with bikeable streets. It’s one of the few cities in the U.S. with electric trams (known as streetcars where we’re from).
I attended the inaugural Accessory Dwelling Academy training, with 120 other ADU advocates from around the US (I was the lone Canadian). This event was partially held by Accessory Dwelling Strategies LLC. - headed up by Kol Peterson, author of Backyard Revolution, a great book on the building and financing ADU construction.
Day 2 involved touring 17 homes in the Portland area that showcased amazing ADU strategies. Here’s a sample of a few:
The big take-away from Portland is the creative ways you can add additional units to an existing property. These multiple houses on a single lot is a great way for investors to add multiple streams of income for a single property. Many of these detached accessory suites are almost the size of regular houses.
Next, I hopped on an Amtrak to Seattle to connect with some local professionals in the ADU space and other high density housing. 25 years ago, Seattle was a small city known mostly for grunge rock, but has since been transformed into a tech giant with the likes of Microsoft, Amazon, and Expedia. A few other notable companies based in Seattle that you might be familiar with include Boeing, Starbucks and Costco.
Amazon has all but transformed a large section of downtown, turning empty lots into massive towers with green spaces. The construction activity by this company that used to sell books online is quite impressive.
Here are some photos from the trip, and also some examples of unique housing that we have seen throughout the city. Many of the best and most profitable projects involve infill development.
With the influx of all the tech workers, this city is also facing a housing crisis, and their response is incredible. Check out the next few photos to see what type of housing intensification they are doing.
The big takeaway from Seattle is how they are able to maximize single family lots for additional housing, utilizing the entire lot for multiple structures. This strategy doesn’t work without their progressive stance towards parking. Eliminating minimum parking requirements, and encouraging walking, public transit and biking in established neighbourhoods make many of these developments feasible.
Hopefully these examples inspire you to take a different view on investing and development. There are incredible opportunities everywhere, right in your backyard (literally!).
The key is to think outside of the box of investing is just a regular single family home or apartment.
What do you think about these strategies? Share your comments below.