Accessory units can help answer housing needs

As my wife Ashleigh and I watch our children grow at what seems like a furious pace, I find myself asking many questions about the future.

Will my son Logan want to attend college far from home? Will my daughter Nora want to spread her wings and move out on her own after completing high school?

Selfishly, I’d like both of our children to remain close to home, here in Concord. But that line of thinking always leads to a burning question: Will our children be able to afford to live near us while the cost of housing has risen to unsustainable levels?

Although we can’t predict what the future holds, I believe we all need to be creative and work together to address the cost of housing in our community, the greater Bay Area and beyond.

Between 2011 and 2015, the Bay Area added 500,000 jobs but only 65,000 housing units. As a region, we only created one housing unit for every eight jobs.

An economist I am not, but I do understand the basic principle of supply and demand. Due in large part to a lack of housing supply, home sales prices and rental rates have been driven to a height that is unreachable for many. The bottom 25 percent of income earners are spending 67 percent of their income on housing, according to the Legislative Analyst’s Office.

Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) are one option available to help ease the lack of housing, although they are not often considered or pursued. ADUs are also referred to as granny flats, in-law units, backyard cottages or secondary units.

In 2016, California passed legislation that eased regulatory hurdles and empowered homeowners to create secondary living spaces on their properties. Essentially, the review for approval of ADUs by local jurisdictions, including Concord, became a ministerial process instead of discretionary. In other words, as long as you submit an application within the guidelines provided, the approval process is relatively quick.

The Concord Planning Commission and City Council supported the creation of additional housing by adopting local ordinances that not only comply with state law, but further relieve the barriers by reducing city fees for ADUs.
ADUs can:

Create housing to help address the housing supply crisis and, in turn, relieve the high cost of housing.

Provide an affordable living space to construct, because they don’t require the cost of land or significant new infrastructure.

Provide a source of income for existing homeowners going into retirement on a fixed income.

Provide a source of income for new homeowners needing to offset high home prices and mortgage payments.

Allow extended families to live near each other while maintaining privacy.

For more information about ADUs, visit hcd.ca.gov/policy-research/AccessoryDwellingUnits.shtml or cityofconcord.org/pdf/permits/planning/appscheck/adui2.pdf.

Jason Laub is Chief Operating Officer at RAD Urban and is a City of Concord Planning Commissioner. Email questions or comments to jlaub.concordplanning@gmail.com