granny flat

A new state law has opened the door for residents who would like to build an accessory dwelling unit on their lot.

Before Jan. 1, 2017, residents were required to pay up to $40,000 just to see if the county would approve an application to build an accessory dwelling unit (ADU), also known as a granny flat. That money was non-refundable and did not apply toward a building permit, making it very costly. A new state law, SB 1069, has changed things up and requires cities and municipalities to make it much easier to build a “granny flat” on their existing home lot.

Galt Community Planning Director Chris Erias said the time was right for this new law.

“Allowing second residential units, aka granny flats, is a great way for elderly folks and others that may need assistance to still live independently but still be close to family members that are providing care,” Erias said. “We have had many inquiries regarding secondary units, and recently approved one in the city.

In addition, Elliott Homes has a second residential unit option in its largest home in the Woodbury Estates subdivision.”

Sacramento County Supervisor Don Nottoli said the county quickly agreed with the new laws concerning the secondary dwellings.

“With all the aging baby-boomers and the shortage of affordable housing, we saw this as a good opportunity,” Nottoli said.

According to the California Department of Housing and Community Development, ADUs can make building more affordable because they don’t require paying for land, may provide a source of income for homeowners, allow extended families to live close by while maintaining privacy. These granny flats enable seniors to age-in-place while having the help they need, or can house college students, the disabled or in-home health care providers.

This is a major cost savings when you consider assisted living communities charge upwards of $5,000 a month.

Cities are required to allow permits for granny flats within “reasonable standards,” according to Erias. He said he believes many Galt residents are eligible to build a granny flat as long as they can comply with setbacks and cover less than 50 percent of the lot size.

Galt residents may only have one ADU, the building must include a separate kitchen, bathroom and have a separate entrance. Total area of an attached second unit cannot exceed 30 percent of the primary dwelling or 600 sq. ft. The total floor area for a stand alone unit cannot exceed 1,200 sq. ft. and the architecture must be the same as the primary home.

According to a summary of the new laws put out by the state, ADUs shall not be considered new residential uses for the purpose of calculating utility connection fees or capacity charges, including water and sewer service.

The bill prohibits a local agency from requiring an ADU applicant to install a new or separate utility connection or impose a related connection fee or capacity charge for ADUs that are contained within an existing residence or accessory structure. In Galt that fee had been nearly $15,000. With that fee eliminated, Galt residents will have less of a fiscal impact on their pocketbook.

The new laws also prohibit cities from adopting an ordinance that does not allow for granny flats.

One of the new bills, AB 2406, also allows for junior accessory units up to 500 square feet that can be added within the primary structure. It must have its own entrance and a separate kitchen but may share a bathroom with the primary structure. Homeowners must live in primary or new addition.

All secondary dwellings cannot be sold separately.