5 New California State Bills Now Make it Even Easier to Build Backyard Homes

Backyard homes have shifted from a niche housing type, to playing a major role in combating California’s housing shortage. These backyard homes, more commonly known as ‘granny flats’ or by their policy and zoning term Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) are secondary homes on the same property as a larger, primary home. They have their own kitchen, bathroom, living area, bed, and a separate entrance, and they range in size from one-room studios to two-bedroom houses. In 2018, 20% of all new housing built in Los Angeles were Accessory Dwelling Units. Before 2018, they accounted for about 1% of new housing. This major shift was the result of California State laws enacted in 2017 that removed many local zoning regulatory barriers statewide, making it possible for homeowners across the state to add new housing to their properties.

Yesterday, Governor Newsom has signed 5 bills that make it even easier to build Accessory Dwelling Units across the state of California.

Here are some of the biggest impacts of the new bills:

Reduced side and rear setbacks

All Accessory Dwelling Units that are newly constructed (ground-up) are now allowed to be as close as 4 feet to the side and rear property lines. This overrides local zoning regulations which previously were often more restrictive. 

All homeowners can now build an ADU of at least 800 sq.ft.

Before, many homeowners were prevented from building ADUs because their existing home was too large and already utilized the allowable density or buildable area allowed by local zoning (this is often referred to as a floor to area ratio, lot coverage percentage, or Residential Floor Area ratio). The state law passed yesterday allows all homeowners to build an ADU up to 800 sq.ft., regardless of the size of the main home or density requirements in the neighborhood, as long as the ADU is 4ft from the side or rear property line, and complies with required fire-safety distances from the main home or other structures on the property.

Reduced Permit Application Approval Time

Local agencies now must respond to a submitted permit application within 60 days, otherwise the application is deemed approved by default.

Elimination of Off-Street Replacement Parking Requirement

When you demolish a garage, carport, or covered parking structure and build a Backyard Home in its place, you no longer need to provide replacement parking on the property.

ADUs can be built on lots with multi-family dwellings 

Accessory Dwelling Units can now also be built on lots with Multi-Family dwellings (such as duplexes). In Los Angeles County, that makes approximately 180,000 new properties eligible to build an ADU based on data from the Los Angeles Tax Assessors office. 

Significantly Reduced Impact Fees

Impact fees are one time fees that are imposed by the city in conjunction with new housing development. Examples of impact fees are school fees, parks & recreation fees, and transportation infrastructure fees. In the past, these fees for a small ADU could cost homeowners between $5,000-30,000 depending on the city. Los Angeles City is on the low end of that range. The new state laws completely eliminate impact fees for ADUs of less than 750 sq.ft., and cap the fees at 25% of what they would be for a new primary home for an ADU of 750 sq.ft. or more. 

All ADUs Can Now Be Rented

Previously local ordinances could prevent homeowners from renting out ADUs by requiring them to be occupied by the owner. The new state laws allow homeowners to build ADUs to rent out (Short term rentals may still be restricted by cities).

Combined, these new state laws are evidence that ADUs are a great way to add to our housing supply, and that policymakers are dedicated to making it even easier for homeowners to do so.  

Although policy makers have greatly reduced regulatory barriers to build backyard homes, construction remains a complex, time consuming, and expensive process. At Cover, we make the entire building process simple and predictable. We’re the single point of contact for homeowners throughout the entire process: We design, engineer, permit, construct, manufacture, install, and maintain backyard homes. We do this with software and manufacturing technology that we’ve built that allows us to deliver stunning, custom backyard homes in a fraction of the time of conventional construction. We’re currently delivering backyard homes in Los Angeles. 

If you’re interested in learning more, or building a backyard home in Los Angeles, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at [email protected] or call or text us at 424-245-1898.