Marin homeowners benefit from laws, policies, and financial support

New California laws took effect on January 1st that affect second units, now called “accessory dwelling units” (ADUs). Last month we discussed how this legislation makes it easier and cheaper to build an ADU. This month, we discuss a related new law which became effective last September.  It gives homeowners the option to create what is called a “Junior Accessory Dwelling Unit” (JADU) or “Junior Unit,” a concept pioneered by Novato’s Lilypad Homes.

Extra Bedrooms –> Junior Units:  another part of the solution

Marin’s primary residential type is single family homes. 

Data show that many of these multi-bedroom homes have only one or two residents who typically share one bedroom. As children move away and homeowners age in place, Marin finds itself with an oversupply of unused and under-used bedrooms even in the midst of a housing shortage.

Enter Lilypad Homes, a nonprofit that can help a homeowner create a legal rental Junior Unit within the footprint of the owner’s home

by converting an existing bedroom. Lilypad’s Director, Rachel Ginis, developed the concept for a studio apartment, 500 square feet or smaller, completely contained within an existing single-family home, but with its own separate entrance. A Junior Unit has an efficiency kitchen with a sink, plug-in cooking appliance, counter surface and storage cabinets, and access to a shared or dedicated bathroom. No gas or 220V electric circuits are allowed. In other words, it’s a spare bedroom with a wet bar, hot plate, bath, and a door to the outside.


Junior Units create more housing without impacting neighborhoods.  Lilypad’s concept broke through in Novato, when Ms. Ginis convinced the city to allow Junior Units without requiring extra parking. The water and sanitation districts cooperated by agreeing to eliminate hook-up fees.  The decision-makers recognized that Junior Units can increase the housing stock without impacting the neighborhoods, and that by simplifying the permitting process, safety and construction standards could be maintained. Several other local Marin communities have followed suit. MEHC, Sustainable Marin, CALM, the League of Women Voters of Marin, and other environmental, social justice, and affordable housing organizations supported Lilypad’s efforts with letters and public testimony.

Feasibility assistance is available. 

This past February, the Marin Community Foundation awarded Lilypad a grant to perform Junior Unit feasibility studies for homeowners. Lilypad will look at spare bedrooms and ancillary spaces that might be converted into a private rental unit; they will measure the interior space, discuss layout options and review exterior access. The service is free for homeowners who want to create long-term rental housing; for others, the cost is $250. (Lilypad can provide a similar service, for a fee, to homeowners who are interested in larger ADUs that do not qualify as Junior Units.)

Leasing and financing assistance is also available. The Marin Housing Authority also wants to help, and invites those who want to lease out their Junior Unit to inquire about its programs, including an interest-free loan program for the rehabilitation or creation of legal units for tenants with Housing Choice Vouchers.

Learn more. You can learn more about Lilypad’s services at and additional detailed information on Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) is available from the California Department of Housing and Community Development

ADU and JADUs provide affordable housing for a working person, student, disabled person or family member and generate income for the homeowner. Please email MEHC and let us know if and when when you decide to explore whether an accessory dwelling unit is right for you and your family!