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Much ADU About Housing

By Datta Khalsa, Broker

The State of California is on a mission to save affordable housing with a rush of 31 housing bills passed this year alone, including several that seem bound to make a difference locally, including SB-8, SB-9 and SB-10 which take effect in January, with the most impactful of these being SB-9.

In short, SB-9 calls for the end of Single Family Residential zoning as we know it, by mandating that you can pretty much subdivide any residential parcel by homeowners being able to split a single-family lot into two lots, add a second home to their lot, or split their lot in two and place duplexes on each.

This growth may be tempered somewhat by the requirements of minimum resulting lot sizes of 1800 SF each, and the need to add a new water meter if you split a parcel, but homeowners can likely still do a duplex or ADU without the requirement for a water meter if their lot doesn’t meet the minimum size requirement for a split but meets existing site standards under their current zoning.

For their part, the County Board of Supervisors has been working updating their ADU Ordinance as well, but there is concern that the ordinance as currently written may create more problems than it solves by forcing ADUs to have design review guidelines, which is bound to limit people’s ability to make the process better and faster.

That said, the new rules still offer multiple benefits, including waived impact and permit fees for ADU’s of 750 SF or less. The County also offers a forgivable loan if the homeowner agrees to designate the unit as low-income housing for a required period of years. And the ordinance allows up to 25% conversion ADU’s by creating the new unit within existing non-habitable building areas like garages and storage.

As added incentive, the County ruled that for permits until 2025 there is no owner occupancy required for ADU’s on Single Family Residential properties, but they kept an owner occupancy requirement on multi-unit properties. And when they recently had an opportunity to go back in time to remove these limits for multi-unit properties, their justification for not doing so was that they don’t want developers and landlords to take advantage of the rules by adding more ADU’s to existing multi-residential properties.

The City of Santa Cruz passed their ADU ordinance earlier this year with similar restrictions requiring owner occupancy of at least one of the units on the property, so for the time being it appears that at least in our area the main benefactors will be existing homeowners who want to add a unit or split their property, while those parties who would be more likely to make an appreciable dent in the shortage of rental stock remain constrained on the sidelines.

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