Opinion: Cancellation of city policy on ‘grandmother’s apartments’ will worsen housing crisis
If San Diego is serious about building affordable housing, then the local government shouldn’t reverse policies surrounding the construction of auxiliary housing units, commonly known as ADUs or simply “grandma’s apartments”.
San Diego’s elected leaders are right when they relaxed the requirements for building ADUs on single-family lots because it is one of the cheapest ways to increase our housing stock in the aim to tackle the housing and rental crisis.
When affordable housing options are offered, there is almost always opposition from nearby residents, special interest groups and public officials, claiming a series of negative outcomes. The opposition tends to worry about traffic, parking and demands on municipal services, as well as changes in the character of the neighborhood.
However, Grandma’s Apartments can be used to make rents more economical for service professionals, such as teachers, police officers, and nurses – anyone who earns an average salary in San Diego – without significantly changing the neighborhood. .
Any increased restrictions on ADU construction may prompt homeowners to take advantage of other options such as Senate Bill 9, a new law recently signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom. This law will allow homeowners to take their single-family property, split it in two and build three additional dwellings.
The intention of the law is to provide much needed housing. However, this law has the potential to change the look of many neighborhoods in San Diego much more than just building an apartment for Granny.
Another law recently signed by the governor is Senate Bill 10. This legislation creates a process for local governments to rationalize the zoning of new collective housing near public transport or in infill urban areas, with up to 10 units per plot. The law simplifies the California Environmental Quality Act’s requirements for overzoning, giving local officials another tool to increase density and provide affordable rental opportunities to more Californians.
The pressure to tighten regulations on grandma’s apartments is unwarranted. There were 286,205 single-family homes and 240,844 multi-family homes in the city of San Diego in the most recent inventory report. But there were only nine Granny Apartments built in 2016, 13 in 2017, 61 in 2018, 202 in 2019 and 386 in 2020 for a total of 671.
It’s a drop in the bucket when it comes to tackling our inventory of housing and rental properties. The only alarming thing is that the number of new ADUs is far too low and we need thousands more built if we are serious about dealing with the housing and rental crisis.
Therefore, our elected leaders must refrain from implementing costly new fees or restrictions when it comes to building DSUs. In fact, the government should offer financial incentives, such as tax credits for their installation to counter skyrocketing construction costs.
The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the costs of lumber and plywood as well as most building materials have skyrocketed in the past 12 months and there is nothing to indicate that construction prices will drop soon. San Diego politicians can’t control the cost of lumber and plywood, but they can continue to make it easier to build Grandma’s apartments by streamlining regulations in an effort to stabilize the local rental and housing market. .
Urge our elected officials not to reverse the sensible decisions that have been taken to reduce restrictions on Grandma apartments so that we can increase our housing inventory. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to tackling the affordable housing and rental crisis, and we will most likely need a multi-faceted approach to increasing housing supply and affordability.
Our elected officials must refrain from mounting political pressure to tighten restrictions on the construction of grandmother’s apartments. What we really need to do is remove all the permit fees associated with building Grandma’s apartments and further relax restrictions around new construction in general – and those in positions of power should do it now.
Mark Powell is a Real Estate Broker and President of Parents For Quality Education.