California SB 9 - The difficult quest for Affordable Housing

by Vince Bindi, March 14, 2023

The recent passage of California Senate Bills SB 1069,  SB 13 and SB 9 has been controversial because it allows for the streamline creation of multiple units of housing on properties that were previously zoned for single-family homes. While supporters argue that this will help address the state’s housing crisis by increasing the supply of affordable housing, opponents have raised concerns about the impact on existing neighborhoods and property values. They worry that the new, denser development could alter the character of established residential areas and lead to parking and traffic problems. Additionally, some critics argue that the law could potentially lead to displacement of lower-income homeowners who can’t afford to buy out their co-owners in order to take advantage of the new development opportunities.

California Senate Bill 9, also known as the “Housing Opportunity and Mobility Expansion (HOME) Act,” is a new law that aims to increase housing options and affordability in the state. Here are some of its key features:

Lot splits: SB 9 allows for the division of single-family residential lots into two separate lots, which can then be developed as separate units. This means that homeowners can build an additional unit on their property and sell or rent it out as a separate dwelling unit.

Duplexes: The law also allows homeowners to convert their single-family homes into duplexes, which are two separate units that share a common wall. This means that homeowners can build an additional unit and live in one while renting out the other.

ADUs: The law also expands access to accessory dwelling units (ADUs), which are smaller units built on the same property as a single-family home. SB 9 eliminates certain restrictions on the size and location of ADUs, making it easier for homeowners to build them.

Height limits: SB 9 increases the height limit for buildings with two or more units in certain areas. This means that developers can build taller buildings with more units, increasing the housing supply.

Parking requirements: The law also reduces or eliminates parking requirements for new residential developments near transit hubs. This is intended to encourage the use of public transportation and reduce car dependency.

Here are some additional details about SB 9 that you may find useful:

  • Eligibility: SB 9 applies to single-family residential lots that are located in areas zoned for residential use. To be eligible for lot splitting or duplex conversion, the lot must also meet certain size and zoning requirements. In addition, homeowners must follow local planning and building codes when constructing new units on their property.
  • Affordable Housing: SB 9 includes a provision that requires local governments to consider the impact of lot splits and duplex conversions on the supply of affordable housing in their communities. If a city or county has not met its state-mandated housing goals, it may require developers to provide affordable units as part of their new construction projects.
  • Community Input: SB 9 allows for public input and comment on new construction projects that involve lot splitting or duplex conversions. Local governments must provide opportunities for public review and comment before approving or denying a development application.
  • Implementation: SB 9 took effect on January 1, 2022. However, the law allows local governments to impose certain restrictions or requirements on lot splits and duplex conversions, as long as they do not conflict with the provisions of the law.
  • Potential Impact: Supporters of SB 9 believe that the law will increase the supply of housing in California and create more affordable housing options for residents. They argue that the law will allow more people to live closer to their jobs and reduce commuting times and carbon emissions. However, opponents of the law are concerned that it will lead to overdevelopment and loss of open space, as well as increased traffic and parking problems in residential neighborhoods.

In addition, Senate Bill 1069 made it easier for homeowners to build ADUs by reducing parking requirements, easing utility connection fees, and streamlining the permitting process. It also allows for the conversion of existing garages into ADUs without requiring additional parking spaces.  While Senate Bill 13 further streamlined the ADU approval process and eliminated some of the fees associated with building ADUs. It also requires local governments to approve certain ADU projects within 60 days

Overall, these California Senate Bills aim to increase the supply of housing and create more affordable options for Californians. By allowing for lot splits, duplexes, and ADUs, the law encourages the development of more housing units on existing residential lots. Additionally, by reducing parking requirements and increasing height limits, the law aims to increase the density of housing developments in certain areas, making better use of available land.

If you are a home owner or an investor interested in pursuing a lot split using SB 9, make sure you do lots of homework. As they say, the devils in the details. Here are a few great resources to help you along the way… symbium.com and casitacoalition.org

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