These New Prefab ADUs Promise Affordable Housing for Years to Come

These New Prefab ADUs Promise Affordable Housing for Years to Come

By Duncan Nielsen
If you provide OBY Cooperative with a 99-year backyard lease, they’ll build an ADU—at no cost to you—that will pay out dividends over time.

"Fight the housing crisis, resist climate catastrophe…make some extra money," urges the landing page for OBY Cooperative, a startup that’s offering turnkey, prefab ADUs to homeowners in California’s East Bay.

"The general idea is that OBY takes on the cost and hassle of building an ADU, and homeowners benefit from having extra room on their property available to rent," they say. Homeowners with land to spare can collect upwards of $500 each month in rent, or $6,000 yearly, without the hassle of tenant management, development headaches, or any up-front costs. As more ADUs are built, those sidelined by the housing crisis would find it easier to secure a rental—and to keep one.

OBY’s preliminary concept is a 576-square-foot ADU with two bedrooms, a bathroom/laundry room, a kitchen, and an open living/dining area. The exterior would be closely matched to the property’s primary residence.

Custom built-ins, and cabinet-grade cedar from sustainably farmed forests comprise the interiors.

OBY—an acronym for "Our Back Yard" that jabs at staunch NIMBYers—is co-owned by community investors, property managers, developers, and designers. With support from cooperative consultants CoEverything, the team of experts have honed a concept that’s both affordable and sustainable.

The ADU’s design eschews carbon-heavy materials like concrete and gypsum board, instead implementing wood that’s sourced from ethically harvested forests. The two-bedroom, one-bath plan features an open living/dining area, a kitchen, custom built-ins, and an exterior "that will match each property’s primary residence," says OBY. Solar panels fixed to the roof provide energy for lighting, heating, and kitchen appliances. 

The design could provide families and individuals alike with an affordable housing option.

A kitchen with modern appliances comes stock with each ADU.

Agility is a major underpinning of OBY’s promise of affordability. With a cooperative network of builders and carpenters throughout the Bay Area, home kits can be prefabricated near build sites, and then easily hauled to a backyard for assembly. Arizmendi Construction Cooperative, a backer of the company, would provide general contracting across the board for quality assurance—everything from the installation of the foundation to plumbing and electrical.

While cooperative homebuilding isn’t new per se—another member-owned concept, still under development, is the Buckminster Fuller–inspired Geoship—OBY’s offering is a glimmer of hope, especially as the threat of evictions brought on by the pandemic loom over many Californians.

Learn more about OBY Cooperative, or voice interest in hosting an ADU, at their website

OBY prefab ADU floor plan

OBY prefab ADU exploded diagram

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