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New State Rules on Granny Flats in California

There is a new state law in California that has every homeowner smiling. The much welcome law gives homeowners the ability to construct an accessory dwelling unit or an extension to their property. The new law will make it easier for residents to construct extra quarters which are usually known as granny flats, in-law units or back houses.

The new state rules on granny flats in California which were approved by Governor Terry Brown came at a time when there is dire need to develop new housing units. This is timely in ensuring the ever increasing demand that has seen the skyrocketing of rental prices is met. In the recent past, there was a question over the legality of thousands of residences that had granny flats added to them. There was even a ruling to the effect that city authorities had been irregularly permitting the construction of granny flats.

The new rules on granny flats in California took effect on January 1 and eased the regulations on granny flats. Some of the things amended include; elimination of sprinkler requirements, eased parking restrictions, elimination of sewage and water hook-up fees and increasing the maximum permissible size of a granny flat. The new laws also eliminated the need for ministerial approval to convert an existing structure like a garage into a granny flat.

What are the implications of the new rules?

One thing is for sure; homeowners will take up that law with enthusiasm and will begin to construct new accessory dwellings without a fuss. The city council had ceased issuing the permits for construction of accessory dwellings even for the better part of 2016 but a memo issued by the Department of Planning on December 30 ruled out the illegality of those permits. The memo states that applicants should be able to get their permits as of January 1 on condition that their granny flats meet the required state standards. It seems however that the officials at the city council are working on a set of requirements that are rumored to be stricter than those demanded by the state.

The said city regulations will put a cap on the size of a back house to just 50 % of the main house or 640 square feet ( whichever is larger ) from 1, 200 feet. This city rule would significantly limit the scale of accessory dwellings for many homeowners. The state requirement was a general limitation of just 1, 200 square feet. Homes in hillside areas will be prevented from having a granny flat constructed to them if the city requirements see light of day.

Accessory units have long been a bone of contention between those advocating for cheaper housing and the city authorities and the debate has picked up quite some speed in the recent past. Those vouching for granny flats argue that the additional units will serve in easing congestion without necessarily changing how the neighborhood landscape looks. Opponents to the SB 1069 argue that the additional units will lead to increased traffic. The new law is estimated to create an additional 5, 000 to 10, 000 housing units in Los Angeles which will do good to address the housing crisis in the state of California. If granny flats were built on just 10 % of the existing single-family residences in Los Angeles alone, that would quickly meet half of the 100, 000 new housing units target. This would do so without changing the scale and character of the neighborhoods.

Previously home owners had to cough up to $ 60, 000 in regulatory fees alone to obtain an approval for constructing a granny flat. This is essentially the same amount of money someone building a mansion required to part with to get an approval. The bill was put together in order to address some of these challenges that red taped the building of residential houses and accessory units.

The mulled regulations from the city will of course bring a stand-off between city and state laws. California prohibits her cities from demanding a discretionary procedure to decide which granny flats are permissible but allows them to set some local standards that affect such things as granny flat sizes and placement. All in all, more residents will get permits with ease and go on to construct an accessory unity whenever they please.

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