Thousands of guest houses across Southern California might be shedding their illegal status, thanks to a law that took effect in January.
In an effort by municipalities to ease the housing crisis, thousands of back houses, converted garages and structures otherwise known as Granny Flats are now eligible for legal permits.
Legislation signed by Gov. Jerry Brown last year was designed to encourage the construction of mother-in-law units by making it easier and cheaper–some cities were charging exorbitant fees, according to Ventura-based architect John Stewart—while simultaneously increasing affordable housing options.
Many forms of guest houses were deemed illegal in California up until the new Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) law made them easier to add. If just 10% of California’s single-family homeowners added granny flats to their properties, 600,000 new units could be added to the state’s housing supply, according to USMondularInc, a firm that specializes in secondary housing units.
“California is in a housing crisis, and allowing people to modify their existing home or build a small cottage in their backyard will increase the rental supply at no cost to taxpayers,” state Sen. Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont, said in a statement late last year.
However, homeowners who put in a granny flat or convert a garage without permits could face a stiff penalty. Some homeowners have had to convert the areas back to their original purpose once city regulators discovered the change. But as more lawmakers open up to the idea, housing analysts believe ADUs will gain popularity and spark more demand for properties that have them.
Ira Belgrade, who runs an organization called Yes In My Back Yard Los Angeles that helps homeowners build granny flats, says a homeowner could retrofit an existing 400-square-foot garage or other structure into a granny flat for about $30,000.
The legislation prohibits cities from requiring additional parking spaces for units located within a half-mile of public transit. It also eliminates sprinkler requirements if the primary home has them. It additionally gets rid of fees charged to connect to local water and sewer systems for existing structures and it reduces them for newly constructed units.
A report that was released in June from the Greater Pasadena Affordable Housing Group reveals that Pasadena has about 740 accessory dwelling units that are nonconforming according to the city’s 2003 law. It notes, however, that some of those units may now conform to California’s new law and some may be nonconforming duplexes rather than granny flats.
Joanne Hwang, a planner with Pasadena, said existing secondary living units in Pasadena are considered legal and won’t need to be retrofitted.
Monrovia Mayor Tom Adams said his city has allowed homeowners to have a guest house on their property for family members, although the units couldn’t include a full kitchen and couldn’t be rented out. That has changed under the state’s new law.
“Over the years, there have been multitudes of garages that were illegally converted and rented out, and when the city became aware of them, they had to be converted back,” he said. “With this new law they’re trying to help alleviate the lack of supply for housing.
Source: San Gabriel Valley Tribune (Sept. 10, 2017)