San Diego will use government loans and pre-approved design models to boost more grandma apartments

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San Diego is stepping up its efforts to encourage the construction of more “granny flats” with new programs focusing on public funding and the creation of design patterns to reduce architectural costs.

The new program builds on previous measures eliminating sewer and water fees, reducing development fees and relaxing zoning regulations for granny flats.

Granny flats are additional accommodation units on an existing property. They are increasingly seen across the country as a way to create more housing without more land or infrastructure, making them the fastest and cheapest way to increase local housing supply. affordable.

They are considered ideal for recent college graduates, young people in lower-paying jobs, and seniors on fixed incomes who gave these units their colorful name.

In addition to boosting local housing supply, granny flats generate income for homeowners that reduces the likelihood of them having difficulty paying their mortgage.

A recent analysis of the city’s 236,000 single-family homes estimated that 2,700 to 5,500 granny flats could be built over the next decade. The official city name for a granny flat is an accessory dwelling unit or an add-on unit.

The city’s efforts build on state legislation three years ago that relaxed parking regulations and rules requiring large buffer zones between structures and property lines.

The new program, led by the city’s housing commission, includes a pilot development program under which the commission will build 40 granny flats adjacent to single-family homes on commission-owned properties.

The new units, which would be built in late 2019, would be suitable for low-income tenants and would include a variety of sizes and designs.

Commission officials told the city council’s land use and housing committee on Wednesday that one of the goals of the program was to analyze costs, timelines, the construction process and potential barriers.

The commission plans to use this information to launch a loan program in the spring of 2020 that will help low-income households build granny flats on their properties.

Additionally, Councilman Chris Ward proposed that the city use $1.5 million to create a public funding pool that would be used to loan $30,000 each to 50 homeowners looking to build granny flats.

Ward said the money he offers is dwarfed by the many millions San Diego spends on homelessness programs each year.

Meanwhile, city officials say they plan to copy an Encinitas program that provides homeowners with pre-approved design templates for grandma’s apartments so they can save money by avoiding l hiring an architect.

“These are plans made by a certified architect that they make available to the public,” Elyse Lowe, director of city development services, told the committee. “It’s basically free construction drawings.”

San Diego initially saw far fewer granny apartment builds than other major cities in California after the state relaxed regulations in 2016, but the city has received more than 400 applications since the changes began. local politics.

Councilor Scott Sherman, an early proponent of the Grandma’s Apartment council, praised the new programs.

“I think that could really generate a lot of the kind of housing that we’re looking for between subsidized and luxury housing,” he said.

Costs to build a granny apartment in San Diego, which vary by neighborhood, ranged from $30,000 to $49,000 per unit before the city reduced them. Prior to the changes, fees were often higher than construction costs.

While the fee cuts could be called a loss of revenue for the city, officials say they are only missing out on what was potential revenue because construction of granny flats was rare before the policy changes. .

City law does not require the owner of a property with a granny flat to live there, but renters must stay at least 30 days to make it more difficult for granny flats to become short-term vacation rentals.

San Diego is one of many local cities focused on easing regulations for granny flats. For example, La Mesa is due to vote Tuesday on parking regulations and other policy changes.

San Diego’s grandmother’s apartment efforts are part of an array of city efforts to boost housing production that have included faster environmental reviews and expanded bonuses for dense projects and those in areas priorities for public transport.

Additionally, the San Diego City Council on Monday approved the elimination of parking requirements for apartments and condominium projects near public transportation.

[email protected] (619) 269-8906 Twitter: @UTDavidGarrick

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