In 2014, the City of Santa Cruz made changes to state legislation amending lot size restrictions on Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU). The city decided to reduce the size of approved lots from 5,000 sq. ft. to 4,500 sq. ft. With the new state laws that came into effect in 2017, any person with a lot in a single-family residential zone is going to be allowed to build additional living spaces on their property. Even with no more restrictions on lot size, all new ADUs or Junior Accessory Dwelling Units (JADU) must still comply with city building codes.
According to the City of Santa Cruz, the changes that have been made to eliminating lot size restrictions for ADUs and JADUs is the first step towards decreasing the housing crisis in California. Many people are struggling to find affordable housing options for themselves and their family. Removing lot size restrictions will allow for the potential of 800,000 new units to be created within the next 10 years. Currently, California has about 7 million homes. If 5% of these homes added additional ADUs and JADUs, it would mean 350,000 more affordable places to live in California. This model of eliminating lot size restrictions on adding additional units to the property has been tried in cities like Vancouver, BC and Portland, OR with great success.
What does this mean for you when you are looking at property in the area? Essentially, it could change what you are looking for in your home. Have you ever considered renting out a room or turning your garage space into a rental suite? With the changes to the current legislation regarding single-family residential zoning, you are now able to do this with any property–regardless of size!
What is an Accessory Dwelling Unit?
Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU) are known as granny flats, secondary suites, or in-law units. They are essentially an additional unit that functions separately to the primary dwelling. Examples of ADUs include: an apartment over the garage, a complete garage conversion to form a new dwelling, or adding a completely newly constructed unit separate to the existing structures on your lot. These are costly options for homeowners, but the supplementary income could make it worth it. They require extra permits from the city as these units will function separately from the primary dwelling. Regardless of the additional costs, the benefits of having an ADU are:
- Providing a good source of income for homeowners
- Building with cost-effective wood-frame construction. This is less costly than homes in new multi-family infill buildings
- Allowing for your extended family to live with you, but still gives you privacy
- Offering just as much living space as many newly-built apartments
What is a Junior Accessory Dwelling Unit?
Junior Accessory Dwelling Units (JADU) are the simplest and easiest way to create additional units in your home. The maximum allowable space for JADUs is 500 sq. ft. This is an affordable option for you as changes to the home can be done in a weekend. Here are some of the details to keep in mind if you are considering a JADU:
- Uses the existing utilities of the primary dwelling
- Doesn’t have to have a separate bathroom
- Must have a door between the primary residence and the JADU
- Owner of the property must occupy either side – the primary dwelling or the JADU
JADUs are allowed to be created within the existing footprint of the dwelling itself. This includes the primary home, as well as any out-buildings such as a garage. Getting permits for this is not an issue anymore. Permits can be approved over-the-counter by city staff. Keep in mind, when converting existing space in your home you must ensure you meet all building codes!
The new process is designed to make it easier for residents to convert existing space in their homes, while providing immediate help with the California housing crisis. The removal of lot size restrictions will enable more homeowners to create housing alternatives for their city. It will allow people working in the area affordable options for them and their family. As well, with the number of seniors expected to double in the next 15 years, a solution to this housing crisis needs to be found. When you are looking for your new home in the city of Santa Cruz, think about rental potential. Whether you are helping out your children while the get on their feet, or housing your beloved Granny in an attached suite, the changes to the “Granny Flat Laws” just opened a myriad of possibilities for you!
For more information about the vibrant communities of Santa Cruz County, connect with Lauren Spencer. As a long-time resident and experienced Santa Cruz real estate agent, she can answer any questions you may have about moving to the area.