State Sen. Bob Wieckowski’s SB 13 will help California ease its housing crunch by making it easier to build granny units on their property.

Click here to read the article on Mercury News

By BOB WIECKOWSKI and MATT MAHOOD |

PUBLISHED: April 16, 2019 at 6:10 am | UPDATED: April 16, 2019 at 6:12 am

California needs to streamline regulations on developing accessory dwelling units (ADUs) in order to ensure that cities like San Jose can provide a key piece to the affordable housing puzzle.

ADUs, also known as granny flats or in-law units, offer desperately needed housing that can help provide affordable housing options for renters as well as a substantive source of income for homeowners. ADUs can be inhabited by children returning home from college, new Silicon Valley employees or even grandparents looking to downsize and age in place.

Cities across the state have adopted their own ADU policies and programs to help homeowners apply for permits to develop them. However, there are still significant barriers in various city policies that hinder a homeowner’s ability to construct an ADU. The city of San Jose is permitting fewer ADUs annually than the city of Los Angeles’ rate of almost 400 permits a month. Part of the reason for this significant difference has to do with population size and staff capacity, but regulations are really the root cause of the clog in the pipeline.

At a recent state legislative hearing on ADUs, the state Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) outlined several barriers facing California homeowners.  They include owner occupancy rules and deed restrictions that require an owner to live in one of the units, unreasonable minimum lot sizes that restrain development, substantial fees that have not been revised, and fire sprinkler requirements that violate state law.

Both residents and businesses should support Sen. Bob Wieckowski’s SB 13, which would make it easier for cities to build ADUs by streamlining the permit process and deconstructing many of the barriers just listed. The bill, which recently passed its first committee hearing with bipartisan support, creates a tiered-fee structure with rates that rise based on the size of the ADU. It prohibits owner-occupancy requirements, which are not used on other forms of housing. It provides an amnesty program that would ease the path to permitting pre-existing, unpermitted units and brings them up to code. It also allows for enhanced enforcement to ensure local agencies are following the law on ADUs.

ADU reform is low hanging fruit that can be easily streamlined and implemented across California to help meet Gov. Gavin Newsom’s housing goal of 3.5 million new housing units by 2025 and San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo’s goal of 25,000 new homes by 2023. This would bring much needed housing to our local teachers, seniors, college graduates, construction workers and so many more Bay Area residents that are being priced out of their communities due to the lack of supply and the increase in demand. If we fail to fully embrace the potential of ADUs to be part of the solution to this housing shortage, we will see more of our neighbors hitting the road for good.

Sen. Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont, represents the 10th District in the California Senate..  Matt Mahood is the president and CEO of The Silicon Valley Organization.

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