In-law housing solutions
by Assemblyman Phil Ting
There’s no question; we face a drastic shortage of affordable housing not just in San Francisco but across the state.
Our growing senior population also wants to age in place, but they might not need as much space.
We can add affordable housing within the fabric of existing neighborhoods quickly and inexpensively through the creation of accessory dwelling units, or ADUs. Commonly referred to as inlaw units, or granny flats, ADUs are units added to a residence that offer amenities required for independent living, such as a kitchen, bathroom and separate entrance. The units can be built within a garage or storage space, under a deck or in a back or side yard.
In San Francisco, local law allows ADUs to be constructed in multi-unit buildings; since 2014, more than half of the filings for ADU permits in San Francisco were for the construction of units in apartment buildings undergoing mandatory “soft-story” seismic retrofitting.
Additionally, ADUs built in rent-controlled buildings fall under rent control, so this is the only way that our City can add any new rent-controlled housing stock.
In 2016 and 2017, the California legislature passed four bills that removed barriers to ADU development while guarding against overcrowding and substandard living conditions. The subsequent increase in permit applications statewide has been drastic; in San Francisco, the number swelled from 41 in 2015 to more than 600 in 2017.
Unfortunately, we now face a citywide backlog of 900 applications under different stages of review.
In the Sunset, only 13 of 46 permits have been approved; the rate of approval for Richmond District applications is not much better, with 68 out of 153 approved.
To address this, I introduced legislation earlier this year, AB-2890, which would expedite the construction of ADUs. It would have required permits to be issued by a locality within 60 days and it would have required the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development to create a uniform code for building standards to ensure that units are built safely.
Additionally, my legislation would have prohibited new ADUs from being used as short-term rentals. Altogether, this effort would have built upon local ADU bills authored by SF supervisors Aaron Peskin and Katy Tang to create a statewide framework for expanding production.
I saw the demand for this kind of legislation; my office received calls from people across the state interested in the bill and its movement through the legislative process. These homeowners told us that they wanted to build ADUs to house their parents or adult children, or for rental income to help pay their mortgages.
While the bill did not make it to the finish line this year, I plan to reintroduce it when the legislature reconvenes in December. I will continue to work with stakeholders both here in San Francisco and across the state to develop best practices that will speed up ADU production while minimizing any neighborhood concerns. By working together, we can make a significant difference in our local and statewide housing crisis.
Phil Ting represents the 19th Assembly District, which includes the west side of San Francisco and the communities of Broadmoor and Daly City.