Lawmakers in Sacramento just made it a lot easier for homeowners to build a granny flat in their backyard, which some San Diego leaders think could help ease housing woes.

The change reduces fees paid by homeowners who build secondary units on their property and, in many cases, eliminate requirements for more parking spots.

The legislation from state Sen. Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont, takes effect in January. It was signed by Gov. Jerry Brown last week.

“SB 1069 returns more power to homeowners and reins in some of the enormous fees and requirements levied by local agencies,” Wieckowski said in a statement.

Although building secondary units on property for elderly parents coined the term “granny flats,” real estate agents and lawmakers say rent is so high that just about everyone is trying to get in one nowadays.

“It’s a modest step,” said Steve Russell, executive director of the San Diego Housing Federation. “Anything that contributes to housing supply is part of the solution . . . it’s a big drop in the bucket but it’s still just a drop in the bucket.”

Russell said the legislation was, in some ways, a response to a 2002 law to encourage granny flats but was hampered by municipalities that added too many restrictions.

“This is one of the few actions coming out of Sacramento that seems to recognize the depth and severity of the housing crisis,” he said.

The law was opposed by the League of California Cities, which asked the governor to veto the bill because it said it took away local control, and would cause traffic and congestion with the elimination of traffic requirements. It also said cutting fees associated with utilities was a bad idea.

“Additional limitations mean fiscal hardships to utility providers,” it wrote.

Yet the desire to allow for more accessory dwelling units has been catching on with planners for a long time.

Even the White House’s recent Housing Development Toolkit suggested granny flats as a way for additional affordable housing.

Anthony Andaya, president of the Pacific Southwest Association of Realtors, said granny flats allow for extra rent cash to offset the rising price of homes.

“This allows homeowners to get a little more income out of their properties, which is nice for owners to counteract some of their larger costs right now,” he said.

The legislation says that as long as the granny flat meets current zoning guidelines, the homeowners can avoid having to get a conditional use permit.

Homeowners can get out of providing parking for granny units, which cannot exceed 1,200-square-feet, as long as it is within a half mile of public transit, if they are part of an existing primary residence or in an architecturally and historically significant district.

Local agencies would be blocked from charging connection fees for the granny flats for water and sewer service. Other requirements, such as adding fire sprinklers for small accessory dwelling units even if the primary residence doesn’t need them, are eliminated under the legislation.

Article credit to San Diego Union Tribune


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