Everything You Need to Know About Assembly Bill 68
Governor Gavin Newsom signs Assembly Bill 68 (AB 68) with United Dwelling
In October, 2019, California Gov. Gavin Newsom joined us at a United Dwelling home to sign California Assembly Bill 68, a new law meant to further encourage the development and construction of Accessible Dwelling Units (ADUs). Over the last two years, ADUs — also known as granny flats and in-law units, among other nicknames — have become an essential part of the effort to solve California’s affordable housing crisis.
ADUs provide a great way to strengthen communities, opportunities for homeowners to earn extra income and increase their property value, and construction of high-quality homes that provide renters more privacy and security than most affordable housing. With California Assembly bill 68 (AB 68), California state will make it much easier and more affordable for everyone to build ADUs and get in on a booming trend.
How did ADUs work before AB 68?
In 2016, California passed a series of landmark bills aimed at tackling the state’s skyrocketing cost of housing. Three of those bills (SB 1069, AB 2299, and AB 2406) specifically paved the way for homeowners to build ADUs on their property. In some ways, it’s been a growing success, with ADUs accounting for 20% of total housing permits applied for in Los Angeles County in 2018. But as with all major innovations and changes, there have been some inevitable speed bumps, hiccups, and hangups along the way to reaching the ADU movement’s full potential.
Accessory Dwelling Units provide a long list of benefits to homeowners, renters, and communities, but some towns and homeowner associations have been resistant to embrace them. In some cases, that’s meant actively working to make life hard for homeowners who want to build these units, saddling them with high registration fees and cumbersome regulations. In other places, it’s been a matter of zoning issues that have prevented more in-law units (yet another nickname for them!) from being built. Elsewhere, the law didn’t quite fit the kind of homes already in the region. As a result, many people who have wanted to build an ADU have been unable to do so.
How will AB 68 make it easier to build an ADU?
So what is AB 68 and how is it beneficial for community development? The overarching goal of is to make it much easier to build a granny flat on your property, and it takes a pretty wide-ranging approach to doing so. After nearly three years of studying the various issues that cropped up after the initial ADU legislation was approved, lawmakers have included a number of different approaches to ensuring that more accessibility and opportunity to hop on the ADU trend in an affordable, timely way.
Because California Assembly bill 68 has several distinct elements, it’s helpful to look at them one by one.
Making the ADU permit process faster and easier
First, the law removes a lot of the red tape associated with getting the permits to build an ADU. Before, municipalities could take up to 120 days to review an application to build a granny flat. Now, that number has been cut in half, to just 60 days. If you apply for a permit to build an ADU, your local government can’t spend more than two months deciding whether to give the green light for approval.
Crucially, the new law also prohibits those local governments from creating extra strict requirements that exceed what the state has established. In most cases, they can’t impose parking lot requirements or demand that the ADUs match really specific and stringent floor plan benchmarks.
The parking element is a big deal in both Los Angeles and San Francisco. If an ADU is built half a mile or less from public transportation, no parking space for the ADU is necessary. (And here at United Dwelling, we only build ADUs within a half-mile of public transportation.)
The size and space requirements for ADU projects are also a big relief for people in the LA area, which tends to have closely clustered single-family homes. Now, if an ADU is less than 750 square feet and lower than 16-feet high, with four feet of setback from the property line, it can’t be rejected for arcane reasons and there are no impact fees related to the building permit. Between a minimum of 750 sq ft and a maximum of 1,000 square ft you also have the right to build but the impact fees will add cost.
Expanding the definition of ADUs
Before AB 68, there was a relatively low cap to how many people could build ADUs on their property. The new law opens up the opportunity to a much broader spectrum of homeowners and property owners, while also expanding the options available to people who were already able to build granny flats.
Now, owners of single-family homes can build both a regular-sized ADU (the 800 square foot, 16-foot-tall unit) and what’s known as a Junior ADU. A Junior ADU is actually attached to a single-family home or to the new ADU; basically, it’s a spare room that has been converted into a separate housing unit a with kitchen and bathroom to rent out. It’s a nice way to turn empty nest syndrome into a positive investment.
Often, Junior ADUs wind up being bigger than the room that’s being converted, but according to AB 68, as long as it doesn’t extend more than 150 square feet beyond the original walls of the house, it’s good to go.
AB 68 also allows duplex buildings to participate in the ADU opportunity. Now, owners of multi-family units can build several additional ADUs within the confines of their existing building — think Junior ADUs — and up to two individual, unattached granny flats on their property. These expansions alone have the potential to fuel an exponential increase in the number of ADUs built in the LA area and further support the fight against the affordable housing crisis.
How will AB 68 impact communities?
The passage of AB 68 has the potential to help communities in a variety of ways. Right now, building an ADU can increase one’s property value by about $150,000, and when you consider just how many more ADUs are on the horizon, a community that invests heavily in granny flats should see property values shoot up.
But it’s not just about making money. To this point, we haven’t focused much yet on the people who are likely to live in these Accessory Dwelling Units, but it’s essential to remember why these units are proliferating. The affordable housing crisis in California is driving long-time residents from their homes, while also making it increasingly difficult for middle class and working people to afford to live in the communities where they work.
Thus far, ADUs have been very popular amongst social workers, teachers, EMTs, nurses, residents in hospitals and PhD programs, and other community keystones who don’t necessarily make the sort of money that will pay the rent in market rate housing. The more ADUs that are built, the more opportunities there will be for people serving your community and long-time residents to stick around in the communities they’ve helped to build and enrich.
We should also note that when people live closer to where they work, they have shorter commutes, which is a pretty big deal in places like Los Angeles, where sitting in traffic is as much a fact of life as droughts and super-hot waiters who are cutting out of their shifts early to go on an audition.
Plus, fewer cars on the road is also good for the environment, and everyone wins there.
How can AB 68 help United Dwelling build you an ADU?
When you work with United Dwelling, you don’t have to worry about dealing with permits or paperwork — we handle all of the red tape and logistics. But the easier and faster that stuff is for us, the faster we can get to work on building your ADU, making the expediting of permit applications pretty important.
Furthermore, AB 68 means we can work with you even if you already have an old garage or other structure on your lot. Before, it was difficult to remove an existing structure and build a granny flat from scratch, now we can do so without limitations.
Looking to create an Accessory Dwelling Unit in your backyard? United Dwelling can help! Click here to find out if you’re eligible.
At United Dwelling, our purpose is to build hope by fulfilling our mission to build small homes that empower communities. We are an infill production home builder, focused on modular ADUs and ground-up residential projects in our target markets. We are passionate about solving one of our nation’s biggest social problems: affordable housing.
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