Friday, July 29, 2016

Government Restrictions Eased on Secondary Housing Units

Throughout California, but especially in the Los Angeles area, housing opportunities are getting very limited. There simply isn't enough space to provide housing to the thousands of current residents and the hundreds of new people looking to find somewhere to live. Los Angeles has plenty of draws: the nice weather, the variety of shops and restaurants, and a wide array of employment opportunities. However, as more people look to come to California, the market shifts accordingly. Currently, even for those who can afford to buy a house or rent an apartment in the rising housing market, there is little room for being picky based on location; you just take what you can get. Fortunately, as Liam Dillon and Andrew Khouri describe in their L.A. Times article, California lawmakers are working on a way to address the major housing issue.

New construction of homes or apartment buildings could provide housing opportunities. Unfortunately, all available vacant land has also been growing scarce. Until recently, getting the required approvals and permits for construction was such an arduous process that it made it nearly unfeasible for most people to even try. Now, due to the push from Governor Jerry Brown and LA mayor Eric Garcetti, legislators are relaxing regulations, making it easier for homeowners to build "granny flats" in their backyards, thus converting empty space into housing.

Just a few years ago, any homeowner that wanted to convert a garage into an extra room or add an extra freestanding structure in their backyard had to face the seemingly endless trials of the governmental bureaucracy. In the end, many who tried to add on to their property, whether for guests, for family, or as a rental to bring in some extra income, inevitably failed or at least had to go through months of stressful negotiating with the city of Los Angeles. Now that the restrictions are being relaxed, at least to some extent, homeowners may help California as a whole to keep up with growing demand. Statistics show that Los Angeles needs to add at least 100,000 new units each year in order to keep up with the market, and retired individuals may benefit the most from this opportunity.

Some, like 78-year-old Rochelle Ventura, tried previously to submit plans to the city for backyard additions, but the strict regulations led to their ultimate rejection. Since 2005, so few units have been approved that only 347 have been completed in the Los Angeles area. Some of the regulations seem unnecessary to most, especially if the secondary unit will be used by family members. One of the new bills is overturning a restriction that required secondary units to have uncovered access to a public street. Since that is no longer a necessity, under the new rules, more property owners may find it economical again to take a crack at expanding into the territory of secondary units. Hopefully, the new legislation will help to solve problems for those trying to find housing as well as those trying to gain a little bit of extra income by providing the sought after housing.

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