Alameda County

Frequently Asked Questions

You've got questions, we've got answers! And if we don't have the answer right away, we'll figure it out! Please check back periodically to learn the latest about Alameda County's Bright in Your Own Backyard. Click on the magnifying glass to search these FAQs with keywords.

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Please note that the application deadline for the initial

round of Alameda County's Bright in Your Own Backyard closes on November 27th.  Please subscribe to our newsletter, The Bright Spot, to stay informed of future opportunities and the potential expansions of our services.

Who should apply for Alameda County's Bright in Your Own Backyard?


Homeowners who meet the basic eligibility criteria and have decided that they want to build an ADU or JADU should apply. If you aren’t ready to start now or are still saving up to build your ADU/JADU, we encourage you to subscribe for updates. We hope to see the initial pilot expand County-wide. However, for now, we have a limited number of spots and need to prioritize households that are ready to act by committing their time and resources now.




How do I know if I am ready?


For starters, you might be ready if your household has had conversations about building an ADU or JADU and has come to some decisions about moving forward and how you will finance it.




Other companies advertise as offering ADU project management or even "one stop shop" services. How is Alameda County's Bright in Your Own Backyard different?


Great question! Here are some features that make our program special:

  • Bright in Your Own Backyard helps you bring everything you need under one trusted roof! Some firms do design-build, but they may not be able to help you determine what your family can afford, refer you to a competitor, or help you understand what landlord responsibilities apply in your city.
  • As a nonprofit, we are able to offer quality project management services, but at no cost to selected homeowners in our program, thanks to the support of our government partners and philanthropic funders.
  • Bright in Your Own Backyard is administered by Hello Housing, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit housing organization, which means we don’t have a financial conflict of interest nor profit motive in working with you. Our goal is to help you realize your ADU vision, not to push you into a product or service we are selling or promoting.




What are the eligibility requirements for me to participate?


  • The Program is only available to homeowners who own a single-family home in the Unincorporated Areas of Alameda County.
  • You must own your home and live in the home that you are adding an ADU/JADU to.
  • Once your ADU unit is completed, you must rent the unit or the main home to a bona fide tenant, which may be a family member or friend/acquaintance. The goal of the program is to create more housing.
  • You must commit to rent one unit (either the ADU/JADU or, if you choose to move to the ADU/JADU, your primary home) for a period of at least 3 years following completion of your new unit. If you stay in your primary home, the completed ADU/JADU must be rented at a rate that is affordable to tenants who earn no greator than 80% of the Area Median Income (AMI) in Alameda County. As an example, monthly rent limits based on 2011 AMI are as follows: $1,918 for a studio unit, $2,192 for a 1-bedroom unit, and $2,466 for a 2-bedroom unit.
  • You must have access to financial resources to fully finance the design and construction of your ADU. Bright in Your Own Backyard offers free feasibility and project management services but not construction capital. We will support participants with understanding the different types of financing options that are available in the market and help evaluate which options may make the most sense to pursue.
  • You must agree to participate in Hello Housing-approved landlord and fair housing training prior to entering into a lease with a tenant.
  • Because this is a publicly funded program, an important aspect is our evaluation of what worked well for owners and what could be improved. Participating owners must agree to participate in our evaluation activities, such as filling out occasional surveys and engaging in one or more interviews about their experience in the Program. This critical feedback allows us to improve processes and (we hope!) showcase successful projects to inspire other owners to build an ADU/JADU on their property.




What is expected of me if I participate?


  • We expect you to meet all eligibility criteria for the program (see above) including access to sufficient financial resources to support all design and construction costs without financial assistance from Alamda County's Bright in Your Own Backyard, and your commitment to participate in landlord training and program evaluation activities.

  • We expect you to be available to meet with your project team on occasion during the business hours Monday through Friday.

  • We expect you to be willing and able to get all household members and decision-makers on the same page. Your family or household does not need to be in total agreement about your goals when you apply, but we will need you to get there before we can help you proceed with the design and construction phases of your ADU/JADU project.




Should I apply if I've already started my project, but now I'm stuck?


You are welcome to apply, however your project’s ultimate fit for Alameda County's Bright in Your Own Backyard’s free services may depend, in part, on your project’s specific circumstances.




Should I apply if my home already has an ADU, and I would like to add a third unit? Or I would like to add a second and third unit at the same time?


Yes! We invite you to apply, but please note if you are seeking to add two units at the same time, we only have a limited number of free project management hours avaialbe for each homeowner so we will evaluate your project goals to determine if we are the right fit.




Should I apply if I would like to build a pre-fab ADU on my property?


Yes! We invite you to apply! Depending on the prefab builder you choose, our services may be modified to match their process.




Should I apply if my primary home needs work that I’d like to handle at the same time as adding an ADU?


You are welcome to apply, however your project’s fit for Alameda County's Bright in Your Own Backyard’s free services will depend, in part, how much work is needed on your primary home.




Should I apply if I plan to rent to a family member?


Yes, so long as you have a Hello Housing-approved bona fide lease with your family member that meets the requirements of the program (e.g. the rent charged is at or below the rent limits established by the program).




Should I apply if I have an unpermitted ADU/JADU that I would like help legalizing?


No, it’s not the right fit for Alameda County's Bright in Your Own Backyard's program services. We encourage you to work with the County's Planning and Building Department for guidance as it relates to legalizing your unit.




Do I get to choose my own tenant?


Yes! Participating homeowners will select their own tenant. If you know someone you would like to rent to, you are welcome to do so, so long as you enter into a lease with the tenant. If you would like assistance finding the right tenant, we can refer you to Bright in Your Own Backyard’s tenant matchmaking partners. It is important to note that in advertising your unit, screening applicants, and selecting a tenant, you must comply with all applicable fair housing laws. Mandatory landlord training for Bright in Your Own Backyard participants will help ensure that you understand these laws and other landlord responsibilities.




Do I get to choose my own architect, designer, and/or builder?


Yes, you will be the one to choose the product type and design/construction professionals for your project. We are here to help guide you through that selection process, helping you understand various product types (from pre-fabricated/modular to on-site panelized construction to traditional “stick-build” construction) and connecting you to a list of experienced professionals. Once we have plans in hand, we will perform value engineering (working with you to fit your dream project into your reality budget), take your project out to bid, review bids for cost reasonableness, help you understand variability and discrepancies in bids, and provide a standard homeowner-contractor agreement that protects your interests.




Are pre-approved plans available?


Bright in Your Own Backyard does not offer (or require!) the use of pre-approved plans. However many jurisdictions are in the process of developing pre-approved plans. As these plans become available and if the County decides to review and pre-approve specific plans, we will notify you in case this makes sense for your project. You are also welcome to choose an off-the-shelf pre-fab or modular product and we will adapt our services to make sense with this product type.




How many homeowners will Alameda County's Bright in Your Own Backyard serve and what are my chances of being selected?


The initial pilot program is designed and funded to support upto 18+ homeoweners with their projects. We anticipate meeting with many more than 18 households to explore project feasibility and readiness for the program, so don’t be discouraged by a high lottery number. There are many different reasons that participants may choose to not move forward after the remote assessment and/or initial feasibility reviews of their projects, so we anticipate actively working with the wait list applicants as we move through the process.

We are working closely with Alameda County to potentially expand the pilot Program and if successful, we will notify all members on the waitlist and post updates on The Bright Spot, so be sure to subscribe.




Are there any limits on my income or my future tenant's income to participate?


No. There are no income requirements for either for you or your tenants.




If I’m not eligible or not selected to participate in Alameda County's Bright in Your Own Backyard, can you refer me to other ADU service providers?


Making smart referrals would require us to have some familiarity with your project and your specific needs, and as a nonprofit organization we do not have the resources to do the necessary homework for free. However, Hello Housing also provides feasibility and project management services at a reasonable hourly rate. Please contact us if interested in learning more.




How much financial capacity do I need to show in order to qualify for Alameda County's Bright in Your Own Backyard? What documents do I need to provide?


It will depend on the type of project you are planning to build. For example, a detached 2-bedroom ADU will cost significantly more than a conversion of an existing bedroom and bathroom into a Junior ADU. Once we have completed a Remote Assessment and phone interview and have a better understanding of your project scope, we will share a ballpark number. Acceptable documentation of financial capacity includes financial account statements, loan pre-approval letters or loan documents from lenders, and gift letters.




What is the purpose of Alameda County's Bright in Your Own Backyard?


Bright in Your Own Backyard will offer participating homeowners free ADU feasibility and project management services from nonprofit organization Hello Housing. Our goal is to make it easier for homeowners to navigate the complex and often confusing process of designing, financing, permitting, constructing and leasing an ADU. We believe that partnering with homeowners like you to create new housing units in your community can help move the needle on addressing the Bay Area’s housing crisis.

Simply put, we want more people to build ADUs and we want to help make it easier!