Question: Where do the free market, creative designs, and the work to end homelessness all come together?

Answer: In a place that requires innovative solutions and outside of the box thinking to solve homelessness. One answer involves a pretty straightforward idea to increase accessory dwelling units (ADUs), or “granny flats” as they are commonly known.

If you’re a homeowner and want to be a partner in helping to end homelessness, the County will provide you with a maximum subsidy of $75,000.

So, what is an ADU?

ADUs are units built by homeowners on their properties that are rented out to families or individuals who have experienced homelessness.

In August of 2016, The LA County Board of Supervisors approved an innovative pilot program that will lend homeowners $75,000 to build a backyard house or $50,000 for a bootleg renovation for up to six units. The loan principal will be reduced each year the unit is occupied by a formerly homeless person and forgiven after 10 years, at which point homeowners can do as they wish with the housing.

The Board also partnered with the LA County Arts Commission Civic Art Program to create the “Yes to ADU” design competition, bringing architects and other creatives together with the County’s Homeless Initiative. The competition is meant to artistically inspire homeowners and encourage their participation in building ADUs in Los Angeles County.

The competition awards architects who submit ADU designs the first prize of $12,000 and two runner-up prizes of $6,000 each. Due to the quality of submissions, the judges for the competition also identified two honorable mentions.

And the decision is in!

Congratulations to our LA County Arts Commission 2018 Yes to ADU Winners:

First Place
Lilliana Castro, Alan Guillen, and Cheuk Nam Yu

Lilliana Castro, who led this submission, is a SCI-Arc grad and principal of Archeffect, a design studio focused on identity design and branded environments. Cheuk Nam (Chapman) Yu, originally from Hong Kong, received his B.A. from UC Berkeley, And his M.Arch from Cal Poly Pomona, and is currently a Senior Designer at 5+design. Alan Guillen is a SCI-Arc grad and licensed architect at R&A Architecture and Design in Culver City, as well as an adjunct design faculty member at the Los Angeles Institute of Architecture and Design (LAIAD).

Second Place #1
Esther Ho


Esther Ho is a USC Architecture student at the Gary Paige Studio, which deals with prototypical micro-dwellings in Tokyo and Yes to ADU.

Second Place #2
Simon Storey

Simon Storey is the principal of Anonymous Architects and has had vast experience in building design for complex Los Angeles lots.

Honorable Mention #1
Joanna Grant, Jimenez Lai

Joanna Grant and Jimenez Lai are principals in Bureau Spectacular, a group of individuals who engage culture through the contemplation of art, architecture, history, politics, sociology, linguistics, mathematics, graphic design, technology, and graphic novels.

Honorable Mention #2
Wes Jones

Wes Jones, who was recently named one of the 30 Most Admired Educators in the country in the Design Intelligence Survey of Architectural Education, is a partner in Jones, Partners: Architecture, a California-based architectural practice founded in 1993. His technologically inspired designs for completed buildings and theoretical projects have received acclaim for their culturally contemporary engagement and their disciplinary sophistication. The work of Jones and J, P: A can be found in the permanent collections of leading design museums, including SFMoMA, CCA, and FrAC.

A big thanks to this year’s judges: Dana Cuff (Director, cityLAB, UCLA Department of Architecture and Urban Design), Milton Curry (Dean, USC School of Architecture), Renee Dake Wilson (Principal, Dake Wilson Architects; VP, City of Los Angeles Planning Commission), Hsinming Fung, (Principal, Hodgetts + Fung; Director of International Programs SCI-Arc), Bettina Korek (Co-founder GRAFT; Chair Interior Architecture, Woodbury University), Brenda Levin (Principal, Levin & Associates Architects), John Sanabria (Deputy Director, Department of Regional Planning), Geoffrey Siebens (Assistant Director, Community Development Commission)

As the humanitarian crisis of homelessness was continuing to rise in Los Angeles County, the Board of Supervisors acted in 2016, and acted to fund and design the Homeless Initiative. This has led to plans to increase affordable/homeless housing and the development of second dwelling units. ADUs are a vital element of this part of the Homeless Initiative.

Part of the Solution: Yes to ADU is not just about design and architecture, it’s about homeowners. Through this competition, Los Angeles County has showcased legal and innovative designs to inspire ADUs that any homeowner can build. We know these units are possible and we know what they can look like. Now, all we need is homeowners to build them.