An effort to develop green designs that homeowners adding second units can download for free was boosted by a nearly $300,000 grant.

The Bay Area Air Quality Management District awarded $296,000 in climate protection funding to the Housing Endowment and Regional Trust of San Mateo County, officials said.

The funds are aimed to reduce design costs for green accessory dwelling units, also known as granny flats or second units, according to a release from the housing endowment organization.

A severe housing shortage and new state laws relaxing restrictions on second units have increased interest in the smaller homes. Custom designs for the units, however, can cost more than $30,000 and take months to develop, said Armando Sanchez, executive director of the housing endowment organization.

Free designs can reduce costs for homeowners, meaning they can reinvest some of the savings into better energy-efficient appliances and renewable energy.

“We all know friends, co-workers and loved ones being pinched by the housing crisis and many of these people would benefit from right-sized, energy-efficient housing,” Sanchez said.

The housing organization has launched a public process to identify green features, space-saving solutions and amenities that homeowners and occupants would like to see in designs.

A design competition will develop additional ideas and homeowners will be able to customize a second unit’s design to match a primary house.

Once final designs are developed, the housing organization will work with public agencies to pre-review designs and reduce approval times.

A San Mateo County green accessory dwelling unit handbook will accompany designs.

To hear public comments and provide information on accessory dwelling units, two open houses will be held, in Redwood City at the Community Activities Building on Wednesday, Nov. 28, from 6 to 7:30 p.m.; and in Millbrae in the Chetcuti Room, 450 Poplar Ave. on Thursday, Nov. 29, from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Information on the events is available at .

The Housing Endowment and Regional Trust of San Mateo County is a nonprofit public/private partnership among the county, cities and businesses  that’s dedicated to increasing the supply of affordable housing.

Story originally published by Bay City News.