California in-law units could be cheaper, easier to build under new bills

Several bills sitting on Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk would cut
red tape and bring more in-law flats to backyards and garages
across the state.

The Legislature has sent the governor measures with major
changes to state laws governing granny flats, cutting permit fees,
allowing more units on large properties and granting limited
amnesty to existing units.

The measures would also grant enforcement power to the
Department of Housing and Community Development, or HCD, to flag
city codes hindering the construction of auxiliary dwelling units,
known as ADUs.

The governor has until Oct. 13 to act on the bills. Lawmakers
are optimistic the measures will be signed.

The measures come as the state grapples with a persistent
housing shortage, estimated to be up to 3.5 million homes, condos
and apartments. Dramatic proposals to attack the backlog —
including more permissive zoning, higher density allowances and
streamlined local approval — fell short in this year’s
legislative session.

Bay Area home prices remain among the highest in the nation, as
the red-hot regional economy adds jobs and population. The median
price for an existing home in the nine-county region was $843,000
in August.

While demand remains strong, adding homes and apartments has
been a challenge.
New building permits slumped
in the past 12 months.

Lawmakers and housing advocates say ADUs can offer a quick,
relatively low-cost way to add apartments to a region pinched for
affordable housing. Lawmakers from the Bay Area and Los Angeles
have taken the lead in easing granny flat restrictions.

State Sen. Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont, author of one of the
reform bills, said the measures would give cities more incentive to
approve the auxiliary units. “It’s another means of creating
new housing,” said Wieckowski.

Wieckowski and Assemblyman Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, authored
proposals in response to homeowner complaints that the process is
often too complicated and expensive in their cities. Residents also
complained cities were making it difficult to build.

Ting’s effort, AB 68, increases the number of ADUs allowed on
a property. A single-family home  would be allowed two units, one
up to 800 square feet and another up to 500 square feet. Multiple
units would be permitted on properties with multifamily units.

The measure also cuts a municipality’s permitting deadline
from 120 to 60 days. It curbs local authority, banning city ADU
ordinances from imposing minimum lot sizes for construction,
requiring parking replacement and other building-size restrictions.
It gives the housing department and the Attorney General more
authority to police local codes.

City governments and community organizations fought the
measures, saying the increased traffic, cramped parking and demand
on services by new residents can overwhelm neighborhoods.

The Cities Association of Santa Clara County opposed Ting’s
bill, saying it would “incentivize operating the property as a
commercial enterprise and could have the unintended effect of
large-scale investors purchasing many single-family homes and
adding ADUs, thus operating more like a property management

Wieckowski’s bill, SB 13, continues the overhaul of ADU
regulations he initiated in 2016. It eliminates impact fees for
units smaller than 750 square feet, and restricts fees on larger
units to 25 percent of the city’s rate.

The bill allows owners of noncompliant units — typically older
apartments built under different codes — to request a five-year
delay in enforcement as long as the unit poses no immediate health
or safety risks. The delay would allow owners to improve units over
time to meet more modern standards.

It also provides an incentive to cities to permit ADUs, by
allowing municipalities to count the units toward their
state-mandated housing goals.

Another proposal limiting homeowner association’s ability to
restrict ADU construction already was signed by Newsom.

Housing advocates say the measures could expand the supply of
much needed affordable housing. Matt Lewis, spokesman for
California YIMBY, said the cost of permits and fees have driven
many homeowners away from their construction plans.

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Lower fees and more permissive local rules will encourage more
property owners to build small, affordable units, he said.
“We’re potentially looking at a golden age of granny flats.”

Wieckowski said the changes were in response to concerns heard
from homeowners across the state in public hearings and panels.

“A homeowner has no idea what these regulations and roadblocks
are with their city,” he said. In the future, he added, ADU
permitting should be routine and completed in one day. “That
should be a 10-minute gig.”

Source: FS – All – Real Estate News 1
California in-law units could be cheaper, easier to build under new bills