Walnut Creek, Pleasant Hill pass ordinances on 'accessory dwelling units' to help solve affordable housing crisis

ByLeslie Brinkley via KGO logo
Wednesday, December 18, 2019
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Walnut Creek and Pleasant Hill are passing ordinances that may increase more affordable housing in the form of "in-law units," also known as accessory dwelling units or ADUs which is one way to turn garages into living units for rent.

WALNUT CREEK, Calif. (KGO) -- State law is precipitating changes at the local level that may open up more affordable housing in the form of "in-law units." They are also called "granny flats," but the official term is accessory dwelling units or ADUs and more of them are likely to pop up in the new year.

It's hard to afford a home in the Bay Area, but one solution is making it easier to convert a garage into a living unit that can be rented out, making money for the homeowner, and providing a smaller and cheaper unit to a renter.

Cities like Pleasant Hill and Walnut Creek are passing urgency ordinances for ADUs this week that will have them in compliance with state law by Jan. 1.

"We believe part of the solution is not limiting production, but allowing the proliferation of ADUs in Walnut Creek and beyond," Walnut Creek Planning Manager Ethan Bindernagel said.

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More rentals should open up statewide, no longer requiring the property owner to live on site.

The review and permitting process in many places will be streamlined and will eliminate connection fees for utilities serving the ADUs.

One of the most visible changes would be removing the requirement for "replacement parking" if the garage is no longer used as a garage. The trade off could be more cars parked in driveways and on residential streets.

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"Now that this is coming down the pike, I think they are going to surge definitely in popularity and it will allow people to become homeowners in the Bay Area because they are going to have that extra income," said Nancy Allen, president of the Bay East Association of Realtors.

Take a look at all of ABC7's Building a Better Bay Area stories and videos on the housing crisis .