Affordable housing. In California, as in most cities in the world, the words 'housing' and 'affordable' are rarely used together. If they are, they are compromised by a hitch like a long commute, or an undesirable neighborhood.
The state of California needs over 1.4 million affordable homes to meet the demands of clients in need of rental space. This crisis has driven both builders and architects to a new level of creativity. Steven Dietz is one of those who have come up with a viable solution for the housing crisis in California. Dietz is the chief executive of United Dwelling, a company that in 2018, won a grant worth one million-dollars, from Los Angeles County. This was to help Dietz actualize his vision to convert garages into living spaces. He was encouraged when in 2019, Los Angeles Governor Gavin relaxed state law that regulates the construction of accessory dwelling units (ADU) like granny flats, garages and guest wings.
To bring this dream to reality, Mr Dietz sent students he once taught entrepreneurship at the University of South California's Marshall School of Business, to conduct a survey. Their findings? 91% of Los Angeles residents use their garages for storage. Armed with this formation, through his company, Dietz seeks out a homeowner who needs a garage conversion, and they enter into a partnership. Once the garage is converted into a decent rental space, United Dwellings picks a suitable occupant, whose rent the company splits with the homeowner.
This arrangement creates many wins; United Dwelling gets into a profitable business, the homeowner utilizes extra space to earn extra income, the tenant gets affordable living space and reduces on commuting. The architect's dream – the aesthetics of the neighborhood are not compromised. To attain the last win, Dietz has partnered with Modative, a Los Angeles architecture firm. The company has specialized in designing homes with a small footprint for the past 13 years. Mr. Dietz approached the two business partners, Mr. Návar and Derek Leavitt. The two designed a prototype with specifications to be mapped onto any two-car garage, within a 310-square-foot space. United dwelling also specified that the designs were to be prototypes that could be done on a large scale, quickly and efficiently. The layout was to be appealing and attractive. The firm has come up with units fitted with full-size kitchen appliances, free-flowing air from ample windows and sometimes even a small patio. Since partnering with United Dwelling, Modative has seen a steady rise in demand for its ADU designs, and thus an increase in business.
However, not all homeowners are keen on renting out their converted spaces; some still want to use the extensions for their traditional purpose, as a guest house, although they admit the space will create extra income in the long term.
To further entice their potential clients, United Dwelling has been building the prototypes in one neighborhood at a time, thus reducing the cost of construction per unit. This trickles down to the client who pays less for the construction. The rise in demand for these units adds yet one more win; creating employment in the construction industry.