ADU Requirements in California

ADU Requirements in California

The time of looking at ADU requirements in California as restrictions is over. Now, new California ADU laws are expanding homeowners’ rights. They are also making it easier for people to not only obtain ADU permits but also expedite their projects.

Considering that winter is an excellent time to build an ADU in your backyard, now might be the perfect time to get familiar with ADU California state laws and regulations that can affect your new project.

Why the ADU Requirements Keep Changing

We briefly touched on the fact that the laws kept changing in homeowners’ favor when we talked about the best California cities to build an ADU in. Since the government of California figured out that ADUs could completely transform the housing market and tackle the affordable housing crisis, new ADU requirements have been popping seemingly left and right.

California is the state with the highest number of homeless people. In fact, it accounts for approximately one-quarter of all homeless people in the nation. Although that number is devastating, it’s not exactly surprising. With a $600.000 median price of a home, California is probably the most expensive state when it comes to becoming a homeowner. Not to mention, it has the highest share of households spending more than a third of their total income on housing. 

So, in California, the rent is atrociously high, and buying a house might be out of reach for most people. That brings us to the state we’re currently in — a housing crisis that hasn’t let go for a couple of decades. 

People have taken to moving to other countries (and subsequently, bringing the housing crisis with them). In contrast, the government has taken to dealing with the issue in-state by making ADUs more accessible.

Those of us in the ADU business have welcomed new ADU requirements with open arms. But it’s logical that the people who knew next to nothing about ADUs in California are somewhat confused.

Here at Cedar, we see many clients who can’t keep up with the changes coming to us with questions on whether they can actually build ADUs or not. Today, we’re setting the record straight.

New Day, New ADU Requirements: AB-881 And AB-68

Not that long ago, all ADU zoning laws in California had confusing language and were harsh and restrictive. Today, things couldn’t be more different. The introduction of new Assembly and Senate bills made building an ADU a more straightforward process.

Arguably the most important bills that passed were the AB-881 and AB-68

Now, reading them both might make you think that the law hasn’t gotten any less confusing in recent years. However, the gist of both these bills is that the restrictions that many cities and counties placed on future ADU projects up until now no longer apply. 

These two bills work hand-in-hand to make ADU building easier and faster. Faster is the operative word here. The most significant change these two bills introduced has to do with expediting the permit process.

Quicker Way to Get Permits

Up until now, the permit process could take anywhere between one and six months. Now, however, as per Assembly Bill 68, it can take no longer than 60 days. That is a huge change that had immediate effects on the number of approved ADU permits in California

Aside from that, these two bills also introduced different changes that make ADU projects possible and more accessible. Previous laws and regulations required the ADU owner to live in the primary, single-family, or multi-family home on the lot. Now, homeowners can rent out both the ADU and the primary home residence. That opens up new avenues, as it isn’t limiting to homeowners anymore.

But, of course, that’s not all. Both these bills also introduced new regulations:

  • There are no more minimum or maximum lot size restrictions in place when it comes to building ADUs. 
  • In cases of attached ADUs or garage conversions, homeowners are no longer required to provide an extra parking space, which lowers the cost of construction.
  • Restricted lot space is no longer an issue because the minimum setback is now 4 feet.

What’s more, new regulations allow homeowners to have more living space available on their lot. Everyone can now have one JADU of up to 500 square feet and one detached ADU of up to 1.200 square feet on their property.

Statewide Exemption ADU

Aside from changing the zoning laws, the government of California now also allows statewide exemptions as per ADU California state law. If you’re building an ADU that’s:

  • 800 square feet or less and 4 feet from the side of the lot, as well as no more than 16 feet in height
  • converted from a structure that already existed on your property
  • a part of your single-family property
  • has a separate entrance and access

Senate Bill 13

The Senate Bill 13 that came after the two Assembly Bills we discussed further clarified the homeowner occupancy restrictions (or current lack thereof).

As mentioned, the owner of the lot doesn’t actually have to live in either dwelling in order to build an ADU. This Senate Bill also ensured that this restriction couldn’t come back into effect until at least January 2025. So, if you’ve planned on renting out not only your new ADU but also your primary residence, you can safely do so, at least for the next three years. 

This bill also introduced other changes that make ADUs accessible for families all over the state. It lowered impact fees for most ADUs and completely removed them for ADUs smaller than 750 square feet.

AB 587

As the changes kept coming into effect, a lot of homeowners were left weighing the pros and cons of ADUs. For many, the cons outweigh the pros because an ADU was considered a part of the primary residence. So, while the homeowners could rent it out, they couldn’t sell it in a pinch, if needed.

Now, things are different. Thanks to AB 587 we can now sell or buy ADUs separately from the primary residence. The only stipulation is that the ADU has to remain affordable over the next 45 years. This isn’t a surprising turn of events. The governments started changing ADU laws precisely so it could create affordable housing. 

This change in the law has the goal of creating dual models of ownership that would cater to low-income families, making it easier for them to become homeowners.

AB 670

Assembly Bill 670 tackled the dreaded HAO problem that many California residents have. Not that long ago, your HOA could block the very idea of an ADU in your backyard. 

Thanks to the new bill, a HOA can’t prohibit the very existence of ADUs. In other words, it can’t ban them on principle. 

AB 671 

All these changes have the goal of helping low-income families and individuals get affordable housing. So the fact that Assembly Bill 671 compels local developing agencies to plan and promote projects that are essentially housing projects for low-income families isn’t that surprising.

Senate Bill 9

The newest Senate Bill 9 is probably the boldest of all so far. As it is still waiting on assembly approval, we’ll touch on the potential effects it might have briefly. 

This bill changes the single-family zoning rules and regulations. What does that mean? So far, all the bills have done the same.

Yes, but this one plans on changing the quantity of building. If it gets approved, it will allow for up to four units per property. Not to mention, it will also allow for duplexes. This is a revolutionary bill when it comes to single-family zoning. It will allow people to split their lots into two smaller ones and build duplexes on both. As you can imagine, that has the potential to completely transform entire residential neighborhoods, which is what makes the bill so controversial.

The bill also proposes that the split of lots happens with ministerial approval. In other words, without hearings and reviews, that could take weeks or months.

Although it isn’t certain just how far-reaching this bill could be and what its potential really is, one thing is clear. The government of California is determined to tackle the housing crisis, and it’s using ADUs to do precisely that. 

In other words, the time to build is now!

Cedar Dwellings: The Right Team for Your Project

We’ve done our very best to not only debunk ADU myths but also ensure that all our potential clients know why California is the best place to build ADUs. So, it’s only logical that we also explain how ADU requirements are changing in favor of homeowners.

New bills make it easier for people to build ADUs no matter the lot size (or their primary residence size). The ADU size and occupancy no longer matter either. Given that these changes are making ADUs more accessible, it comes as no surprise that more and more people are coming to us with thoughts of building backyard cottages.

Cedar dwellings are elegantly simple, functional, and cost-effective. Our turn-key solutions are ideal for busy homeowners who are looking to expand their living space and get an extra income. So give us a call today and start the ADU project of your dreams!