Yes, in my backyard: Brokers say new accessory dwelling unit law will reduce barriers to building

So-called granny flats have proliferated statewide and in LA amid the growing housing shortage, but have side-stepped existing codes

Oct.October 10, 2019 04:57 PM
Newsom Signs Accessory Dwelling Unit Laws
Gavin Newsom signed statewide measures to encourage accessory dwelling unit construction.

So-called granny flats have proliferated in Los Angeles and throughout California in the last few years, with homeowners often earning extra money by converting their garages into rental units. Brokers have also gotten in on the business, with some even making it a focus.

There aren’t a lot of grannies living in them anymore.

But these accessory dwelling units have also operated by mostly side-stepping existing building codes. Until now.

As part of a flurry of measures targeting the state’s housing shortage, Gov. Gavin Newsom on Wednesday signed five bills that cut the red tape on converting garages and freestanding backyard homes into ADUs.

In L.A., the new laws will significantly reduce the barriers to building and will ease restrictions, according to brokers who handle ADU properties.

Among the accessory dwelling unit measures, Assembly Bill 881 will reduce the number of permits that local governments can require to slow down backyard home construction. Another, Senate Bill 13, lowers the fee structure for backyard homes, and accelerates getting such homes up to code.

Those may sound like incremental changes, but a handful of granny flat laws that passed in L.A. in 2016 had a major impact, according to the Los Angeles Times. In the last two years alone, the city has received more than 13,000 ADU construction requests.

The new laws could further “ease up restrictions and expedite the overall process,” which would be good for business, said David Lukan, an agent at Compass’ Downtown office. He said the new laws will provide uniformity throughout L.A. County’s 88 municipalities and numerous unincorporated areas.

One key addition, Lukan added, is that a municipality can no longer issue a blanket ban preventing a property owner from building a second ADU.

With the new laws, Global Platinum Properties’ Julio Ruiz said brokers are more concerned about administrative enforcement than legal prohibitions. Ruiz, who handles  ADU properties for the Hancock Park-based brokerage, said some municipalities don’t have the staffing to handle permitting requests, which are now likely to increase.

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