Adobe Stock / lemontreeimages

Portland, Ore., has a shortage of affordable housing. To alleviate the strain, city homeowners are embracing ADUs, which are popping up faster here than anywhere else in the U.S., with the city issuing building permits for about one unit per day in 2016 reports CityLab writer Laura Bliss. But ADUs can be expensive and out of reach for some of the city's average homeowners.

A new startup called Dweller is aimed at helping more homeowners ride the wave of ADUs affordably. Dweller fronts the cost of purchasing and installing one-size-fits-all prefabricated ADUs in backyards. Third-party property managers rent out the unit to long-term tenants, and Dweller splits the revenues 30-70 with the homeowner, almost as if the company is leasing the land.

Homeowners have the option to buy out Dweller at any time, or purchase a turnkey ADU by themselves from the start, at a cost of $118,000 per unit. The leasing model is similar to how Solar City, the Elon Musk-acquired solar-panel startup, works—except probably with better potential for returns. In Portland, an ADU on the lot of a single-family house generally rents for $1,200 to $1,500 per month.

“There’s a natural market in these neighborhoods,” said Patrick Quinton, former executive director of the Portland Development Commission and the co-founder and CEO of Dweller. As high-end duplexes and triplexes pop up in areas like the arts district, the economics of housing in Portland are driving people to think about how to use their space more efficiently. While developers are accustomed to maximizing their square footage in dense downtown sites, “people haven’t traditionally thought of single-family plots that way,” he said. “Now we are.”

Read More