Governor Newsom Signs Council-Backed ADU and Housing Reform Bills into Law

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Key Housing Legislation to Streamline Production and Ease Regulatory Barriers

SAN FRANCISCO – An accessory dwelling unit (ADU) revolution unleashed by legislation the Bay Area Council sponsored in 2016 to address California’s massive housing shortage will gather even more force under a handful of new reform bills Gov. Newsom signed today that the Council worked to bring to his desk.

“Sometimes small can be big,” said Jim Wunderman, Bay Area Council President and CEO. “We applaud Gov. Newsom and the many legislators who authored this package of ADU reforms for their leadership in addressing the housing crisis. This housing solution hides in plain sight, often right at home in our own backyards, and could go a long way toward helping California meet its ambitious housing goals. We’ll soon see the true potential of ADUs with the implementation of these bills as it removes unnecessary barriers, increasing the supply of housing across California.”

Along with the package of ADU bills, the Governor will sign several bills the Council proactively advocated for related to production and streamlining. The legislations included are:

— SB 330 (Skinner) the “Housing Crisis Act of 2019” will remove obstacles to housing production for five years, such as housing moratoriums and certain fees.

— AB 1485 (Wicks) – sponsored by the Bay Area Council – this state law will expand SB 35’s streamlining review process for “missing middle” housing in the San Francisco Bay Area region. 

— SB 13 (Wieckowski) will remove onerous local impact fees for ADUs less than 750 square feet and adjust them proportional to the unit size if larger, removing a major barrier cited by homeowners. According to a Terner Center report released this summer, impact fees for ADUs can range as high as $50,000 per unit. It also provides a pathway to bring unpermitted units up to code, and removes restrictive owner-occupancy requirements for five years.

—AB 68 (Ting) will prohibit local ordinances from requiring a minimum lot size, rear and side setback more than 4’, and replacement parking if converting a garage to an ADU. It would also allow for a junior ADU and ADU on one lot, and notify the Attorney General if a local agency does not comply with the ADU policies.

AB 881 (Bloom) will remove owner-occupancy requirements on ADUs for five years, and clarifies provisions in the state law that govern ADUs’ relationship to public transit and the types of existing structures that can be converted to ADUs.

It isn’t inconceivable for the state to make a huge dent in the housing shortage with ambitious ADU production. In Vancouver, similar reforms have resulted in 35% of homeowners adding an ADU. With 9 million single family homes in California, that could deliver a significant new source of housing supply that is “affordable by design”.

SB 330, AB 1485 and ADU reforms are California’s best chance to do something meaningful to address our housing crisis this year, in a quick and efficient manner. By holding cities accountable for the housing already planned for in their communities, expanding opportunities to the narrowing middle class, and further reducing barriers to ADU approval and construction, these new housing laws will help add tens of thousands of new units to California’s housing stock.

“The Governor stepped into his role with bold housing goals,” said Wunderman. “His action today is encouraging for the future of all Californians, and we look forward to working with him in the coming years to further address our housing crisis.” 

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