Addressing the Housing Crisis
By Assemblymember Phil Ting
California is in the midst of a housing crisis. For decades, we have not been building enough homes to meet demand. In fact, by some estimates, we’ve produced only 40 percent of what is needed since 2007.
To help increase the number of units built, I’m excited to share that two of my housing bills will take effect on Jan. 1. Assembly bill AB-68 will have an immediate impact by making it easier and faster for property owners to build Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs). ADUs are also commonly known as in-law units, granny flats or backyard cottages and are built within or near existing residences.
Aside from being one of the quickest ways to ramp up the state’s housing supply, I love that ADUs can help keep multi-generational families together. For example, they allow aging parents to have some privacy but still live close by so their adult children can, in turn, keep an eye on them.
ADUs are typically small, but they offer enough space and amenities for independent living, including a kitchen, bathroom and separate entrance. They can be part of a home addition, a garage or backyard. San Francisco already goes a step further, allowing ADUs to be constructed in multi-unit buildings, perhaps in the basement or large converted storage space. ADUs built within multi-unit, rent-controlled buildings add new rent-controlled units to our housing stock. The City has recognized the value of ADUs and successfully stepped up efforts earlier this year to clear a backlog of more than 900 permit requests.
Unfortunately, not every jurisdiction has embraced the concept of ADUs, despite the unprecedented need for housing. After the state legislature eased regulations a few years ago, some cities and counties actually made it more difficult for homeowners to build on their property. AB-68 removes a number of those obstacles. Local governments, for instance, must stop requiring a parking space or a minimum lot size as a condition for construction. In addition, the permitting process can no longer take more than 60 days.
A couple of other ADU laws from my Assembly colleagues will also take effect next year – one forbids homeowners associations from banning secondary units; the other temporarily suspends local rules requiring the homeowner to live on site. I expect our efforts will spur a big wave of interest in ADUs, leading to a boost of our housing supply.
To encourage bigger projects, my other bill, AB-1486, strengthens current law that gives affordable housing developers the right of first refusal to build on public surplus land that has been dormant for decades. It takes advantage of strategically located sites next to transit, schools and jobs. An appeals court recently ruled that all cities must follow this law and prioritize affordable projects over highrises and other commercial developments.
As the Legislature reconvenes starting this month, we will work on more proposals to increase housing for our middle class. It’s a top priority for us. We cannot keep adding jobs in California’s booming economy without similarly building places for workers to live.
Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) represents the 19th Assembly District, which includes the west side of San Francisco along with the communities of Broadmoor, Colma and Daly City.