New California Bill Makes it Easier to Add Second Units in Homes


It’s no secret that there’s a housing shortage across California, in some markets more than others. The squeeze in inventory has led to an affordability crisis which has made it harder for buyers to get into the market.

But perhaps the housing shortage in California can be alleviated somewhat by allowing homeowners to build second units or ‘granny suites’ – officially recognized as ‘accessory dwelling units’ (ADUs) – on their properties.

Governor Jerry Brown recently signed a bill – AB 2299 – that was authored by assembly member Richard Bloom. The new law would encourage homeowners to develop accessory dwelling units on their properties as a means to boost the housing supply. Basically, an ADU is a second dwelling unit that’s either attached to a single-family home, or is a stand-alone unit on the same lot as the main home.

This unique type of housing provides a more affordable option for many would-be buyers throughout the Golden State, and will help boost the housing inventory by eliminating obstacles to the construction of such units.

Homeowners who have wanted to build ADUs in their backyard have traditionally been met with many barriers from local regulations. With this bill, homeowners should have a much easier time thanks to the local adoption of less stringent ADU ordinances.

However, ADU’s do need to meet certain requirements in order to comply with the terms of AB 2299:

  • The unit can’t be sold separately from the primary residence on the lot.
  • The unit can’t be rented.
  • The lot needs to be zoned for residential housing.
  • The unit needs to be either:

~Attached to the home

~Located within the living area of the home

~Detached from the main home but located on the same lot.

  • The floor area of the unit can’t exceed 50% of the existing living space.
  • The unit can’t be bigger than 1,200 square feet.

Such a bill proposal has been prompted by a combination of high housing costs, the heightened demand for various housing types, and demographic changes in certain markets with an aging population, which have enticed cities across the state to find ways to increase their respective housing inventories. ADUs represent an important foundation of affordable housing, and the new bill requires cities to look at different ways to boost the construction of such units.

Whether used by elderly parents, college students, disabled individuals, or anyone else who needs to live close to their families, these second units can help slightly alleviate the growing issue of a lack of affordable housing in California.