California is considered a prime destination for many in the United States, whether it’s for the laid back culture, its burgeoning economy or its sunny beaches. California is also home to the nation’s worst housing crisis, with the particular distinction of having produced some of the highest wages in the country alongside the highest state poverty rate. This crisis, in combination with the devastating wildfires seen over the last few years, has prompted Californians and their legislators to seek innovative housing solutions. Enter: Accessory Dwelling Units.
What are Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs)?
Accessory Dwelling Units, or ADUs, have been around since our founding – Thomas Jefferson lived in one while Monticello was being built. It’s a simple idea: a homeowner builds an additional second home on their property to use as they see fit, whether it’s to house a family member or rent out for additional income. Planners call them ADUs, but you’ve likely heard them referred to as: guest houses, granny flats, secondary units, mother-in-law units, casitas and backyard cottages.
California’s ADU Revolution
In an effort to alleviate California’s housing and affordability crisis, the state passed a series of bills to lower barriers to building ADUs. Prior to these bills, which went into effect on January 1, 2020, local jurisdictions had the authority to set prohibitive permitting and building restrictions. The new state laws supersede local regulations, meaning all California city or county jurisdictions must be compliant with the new state laws. SB 13 and AB 68 helped remove onerous red tape and made it easier for almost every California homeowner to build.
What are the new ADU regulations?
Here are some of the key changes to note in California’s new ADU regulations:
- Single family zoned properties are allowed one detached ADU and one Junior Accessory Dwelling Unit (JADU). A JADU is a 500 sq. ft. max ADU created by converting part of an existing residence (such as a bedroom or attached garage)
- Local ordinances must allow for a one bedroom ADU up to 850 sq ft, and a 1000 sq ft for ADUs with more than one bedroom
- If the property is located a half a mile or less from public transit, a new, detached ADU does not require an additional parking space
- Setbacks (the amount of space between ADU and property) are now reduced to 4 feet from side and rear property lines
- There are no Owner Occupancy requirements until 2025
- Impact fees will not be charged for ADUs under 750 sq ft
- City permitting approval time have been shortened from 120 days to 60 days
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