Building coliving in California just got easier

How to build 4 units on a lot

Sep 20, 2021

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Great news for anyone who’s into housing affordability and housing creativity.

SB-9 passed in California. The law allows more housing units to be built on existing lots.

Here’s the formula for turning a single family home into 4 homes (courtesy of the wonderful Alfred Twu).

The full guide is here.

Anyone who has tried to build cohousing or coliving in California knows that zoning is a huge impediment. It can be very hard to house multiple unrelated people on a single piece of land.

Alfred’s 4-unit formula is now one of the simplest way to make your coliving dreams happen in California cities. If I was starting Radish today, that’s exactly how I would do it.

Here are the steps:

  1. Person A buys a single family home

  2. Person A splits the lot

  3. Person B buys the new lot and builds a home

  4. Person C builds an ADU on Person A’s lot (perhaps shared via an LLC or TIC?)

  5. Person D builds an ADU on Person B’s lot

And also it makes getting a loan easier. Now banks are just lending to a person (or people) buying a single family home. That’s something that do all day long at low interest rates. No need to deal with exotic commercial loans.

Of course, the details are more complicated. But it allows coliving to happen in a series of small, predictable steps. And makes the "tiny homes on a plot of land" vision much more doable.

Go forth and split those lots.

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A guide to coliving

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Thanks for laying this out so simply. There's an opportunity to lay this out quite simply for groups trying to do it. I'd like to understand the remaining frictions preventing folks from going after this. If anyone wants to share more, hit me up!

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