Here’s how we can get the cost of ADUs down (hopefully):
San Diego officials say they plan to begin allowing movable “tiny houses” in backyards across the city, to help address the local homelessness and affordable housing crises.
The tiny houses, which are similar to granny flats but smaller, can be built more quickly and cheaply than granny flats and will create a new source of low-cost housing — without any government subsidies, city officials said this week.
“I think this is a good, common-sense solution that provides some possibilities for non-subsidized, market-rate type housing,” Councilman Scott Sherman said Wednesday during a meeting of the council’s Land Use and Housing committee. “It’s one small step in dealing with our housing crisis.”
The committee voted unanimously to direct City Attorney Mara Elliott to draft an amendment to San Diego’s municipal code that would allow movable tiny houses as long as property owners adhere to a long list of restrictions and requirements.
Under San Diego’s proposed regulations, movable tiny houses would range in size from 150 to 430 square feet. They would have fire-resistant roofs and would need to be connected to sewer, water and electricity.
While movable tiny houses have wheels, city officials said, they aren’t like a conventional trailer or recreational vehicle. Instead, they are built like a traditional home, with interior space geared for daily living.
They could not be rented out for fewer than 30 days at a time, so they can’t be used as short-term vacation rentals.
Property owners would not be required to provide an on-site parking spot for the tiny house.
They would have to be registered with the Department of Motor Vehicles, but they couldn’t move under their own power. And the wheels couldn’t be removed because they’re needed to support the structure.
Despite the tiny houses being potential competition, the local development community supports the effort.
“Everyone pretty much agrees that the old ways of doing things are not going to get us out of this crisis,” said Matt Adams, vice president of the local chapter of the Building Industry Association. “It’s creative, it’s innovative and you have other jurisdictions around the nation exploring it.”
A property owner can have a movable tiny house installed on their property within 30 to 45 days, much less time than the six to 18 months it typically takes to add a granny flat, said Barrett Tetlow, Councilman Sherman’s chief of staff.
The process takes less time because the movable tiny houses are pre-fabricated and then shipped to property owners, while granny flats are typically constructed on-site and require a lengthier approval process.
Tetlow said a tiny house will typically cost about $85,000 total, compared to somewhere between $100,000 and $150,000 for a granny flat, which is usually between 500 and 1,000 square feet in size.
With tiny houses renting for an estimated $900 per month, Tetlow said, a property owner would recover their initial investment in about eight years. After that, the rent from the tiny house could help cover their mortgage payment or other expenses.
The tiny houses would become a new rung on the housing ladder, above homelessness and potentially above subsidized low-income housing, Tetlow said.
For Encinitas homeowners who are considering a granny flat – or buyers who want to purchase a suitable property – this is a 7-minute primer from one of the architects who helped guide the city to their current policy (which is the most flexible in North County).
He quotes the costs to build a granny flat to be between $75,000 to $300,000, depending on size, which still sounds like too much for most people. But he thinks that in the long run the benefits are so great that homeowners who have the right-sized property will build one.
These guys are only operating in the Bay Area, but this is an idea that could spread, especially if they could buy the granny flats for less than $100,000. They mention the company Node, who is charging $200,000 for a ready-built and installed 600sf ADU if you were to buy direct from them.
The City of Carlsbad needs to build 2,094 very-low and low-income homes over the next ten years. Hope they get busy on approving those granny flats!
CARLSBAD — Housing is arguably the most pressing issue in the state.
As such, every eight years the state determines the number of housing units, known as the Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA), and distributes those totals to each county. From there, the county breaks down the total for each jurisdiction.
In San Diego County, the region was mandated to 171,685 new units for the 2021-29 cycle, according to the California Housing and Community Development Department (HCD). The San Diego Association of Governments presented the numbers during its July 26 board meeting.
For Carlsbad, it means 3,873 new units must be constructed by the deadline. The council also approved a letter to SANDAG in support of the new methodology during its Aug. 20 meeting.
“Those comments will be considered by the SANDAG board on Sept. 6,” said Debbie Fountain, Carlsbad director of community and economic development. “We did prepare the letter … and is recommending support for that methodology.”
The goal is to increase the housing supply, as California is suffering from a housing shortage. According to the state methodology, 65% of RHNA is distributed to each municipality’s relative to its share of transit stations and stops and 35% is based on the share of jobs.
Carlsbad has no major stops per the methodology, but is the region’s third largest employer at 4.76%. And since Carlsbad has a higher average income than most of the county, more affordable housing units are required.
However, the city’s RHNA allotment decreased by 1,126 units compared to the last cycle.
The proposed methodology requires the city to construct 1,310 very-low income housing, 784 low-income, 750 moderate and 1,029 above-moderate units.
The city’s very-low income housing increased by 398 units over the previous cycle, while moderate and above-moderate units decreased by 312 and 1,303, respectively. The county saw an increase of 9,695 units compared to the fifth cycle.
“We also wanted to get some acknowledgement of the great work Carlsbad has been doing for providing low-income housing,” Fountain added.
Councilwoman Cori Schumacher asked Fountain to provide clarification for the public between the fifth and sixth assessments. Fountain said if approved by SANDAG, the city would be responsible for more very low- and low-income units in the sixth cycle compared to the fifth.
Schumacher said the focus this time around is on jobs, while Fountain added the state set specific standards, such as housing being concentrated around job and transit centers.
“It’s a 65-35 split,” Fountain added. “They looked at the jobs-housing balance. They came down to this more data-driven formula.”
One change the city will face is addressing its density requirements under the Housing Element, Fountain said. As such, she said the city will struggle “a lot” with its Growth Management Plan due to the new housing requirements and methodology.
The city’s letter supports the methodology, but also states the city has made significant strides over the past 25 years due to its Inclusionary Housing Ordinance.
Remember when I mentioned the Carlsbad homeowner who told me that his plans for an ADU had gone six months without approval at the City? Didn’t it make you think, “There has to be a better way”?
For those who are interested in pursuing an accessory dwelling unit for their property and want assistance, consider the service that Dave Probst offers.
Whether it’s a property you already own, or one you might buy, Dave will prepare a report for $655 that will include a preliminary plan and estimate of building costs. For an additional fee, he can also deal with the city on your behalf, and, in most cases, he can get you ready for permits within 60 days.
I haven’t seen him in action myself, but other realtors around town have spoken of him highly. He has a seminar scheduled at 4:00pm on May 11th at the Lexus Center in Escondido, and you can find more information at his website:
We’ve talked about one-story homes – another way to add insulation from any potential downturn is to buy a property that can accommodate a granny flat. They can produce extra cash flow (the county states that they can be rented), and if you ever have to sell, there are home buyers looking to have grandma on-site rather than putting her in a senior facility at $5,000 per month. Cities have been slow to accommodate the accessory dwelling units (ADUs), but they need to comply with low-income housing so they should come around.
Hat tip to Bryce and Nancy:
The San Diego Board of Supervisors voted to waive fees for residents building accessory units on their property Wednesday to address the county housing shortage.
These accessory dwelling units, known as “granny flats,” are described as attached or detached residential spaces to an existing property that can provide sleeping, eating, cooking, and sanitation, according to the county.
“This is a critical step in our on-going efforts to address the region’s housing crisis, especially the serious need for affordable housing,” said District 2 Supervisor Dianne Jacob. “This new program is the quickest and easiest way for us to expedite the development of housing.”
The board voted Wednesday to waive all county permit and development impact fees over the next five years with the hopes of bringing thousands of additional granny-flat homes across the county.
The previous cost of a permit for a granny flat was $1,222 plus $0.0411 per square-foot of space, according to the county’s website.
In total, residents planning to build granny flats could save an average of $14,000, according to District 5 Supervisor Jim Desmond.
In order to offset the loss of these fees, the county said it would subsidize $11 million for the five-year program.
“We will continue to be creative and challenge the status quo to solve the region’s housing crisis,” said Desmond.
The incentivized units can be used for family members or rented out as a source of income for the homeowner, the Board of Supervisors said.
If baby boomers have to sell their home because they need the money, this will be a great alternative – and could help to dry up the housing inventory, especially if you can build an ADU for less than $50,000. Homes with bigger yards would be more valuable too.
Today, Samara is announcing a new initiative called Backyard, “an endeavor to design and prototype new ways of building and sharing homes,” according to a press statement, with the first wave of test units going public in 2019.
It means Airbnb is planning to distribute prototype buildings next year.
The name “Backyard” might imply that Airbnb just wants to build Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs), those small cottages that sit behind large suburban houses and are often rented on Airbnb. Gebbia clarifies that is not the case. “The project was born in a studio near Airbnb headquarters,” he says in an interview over email. “We always felt as if we were in Airbnb’s backyard–physically and conceptually–and started referring to the project as such.”
Backyard is poised to be much larger than ADUs, in Gebbia’s telling. Yes, small prefabricated dwellings could be in the roadmap, but so are green building materials, standalone houses, and multi-unit complexes. Think of Backyard as both a producer and a marketplace for selling major aspects of the home, in any shape it might come in.
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