Senate committees approve bill removing barriers on accessory dwelling units

Secondary units are overdue alternatives that will provide affordable housing

April 20, 2016

Sacramento – The supply of accessory dwelling units, a long under used approach to providing affordable workforce housing, would increase across the state under a bill by State Senator Bob Wieckowski (D-Fremont) that is receiving widespread backing from the business community, affordable housing advocates and urban planners.  SB 1069 was approved with bipartisan support this morning in the Senate Governance and Finance Committee, and yesterday in the Transportation and Housing Committee.

“We face many challenges when it comes to providing affordable housing, but eliminating the barriers to accessory units is a cost-effective approach that will make better use of our limited space in the Bay Area and across California,” said Wieckowski, a member of the Transportation and Housing Committee. “Expanding the supply of these secondary units is not a panacea for our housing shortage, but it is an important step and will allow people to stay in the communities they were raised in.”

SB 1069 eases regulatory burdens by providing exceptions to parking requirements if the home is located within a half mile from public transit; eliminating sprinkler requirements and new land use fees on water and sewer hookups; and reducing the time to approve or deny a building permit application from 120 days to 90 days.

“Bay Area companies are having a tough time hiring employees because they cannot find housing in today’s tight market without having to drive two to three hours a day,” said Denise Pinkston, co-chair of the Bay Area Council’s Housing Committee and the former Marin County Planning Services Coordinator.  “This common-sense bill makes modest changes, but will have huge impacts on the supply of affordable secondary units.  Many homeowners have ‘too much house’ and they should be allowed to repurpose their home to use a portion of their property as a rental.”

A 2015 University of California, Berkeley Center for Community Innovation study found a substantial market of Bay Area homeowners interested in building an accessory unit, but a significant number were deterred by unnecessary regulatory barriers.  Karen Chapple, author of the study, spoke in support of the bill yesterday in the Transportation and Housing Committee.

The bill is sponsored by the Bay Area Council and supported by a number of business organizations and individual companies, including the California Association of Realtors, Joint Venture Silicon Valley Network, East Bay Leadership Council, California Chamber of Commerce, Kaiser Permanente, Facebook, and Virgin America.

Affordable housing advocates and groups representing seniors and low-income Californians are also in support, such as Bridge Housing, AARP, Western Center on Law and Poverty, Non-Profit Housing Association of Northern California, and the Terner Center for Housing Innovation.