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SB 778 Clears Obstacle to ‘In-Law’ Units in Mixed Use and Multifamily Buildings

SB 591 Allows Affordable Housing Developers to Build Intergenerational Housing

May 2, 2021 - SACRAMENTO – The Senate Housing Committee gave the greenlight on Friday to two bills by Senator Josh Becker that lift barriers to housing creation josh becker california state senator official photoin key areas of need and opportunity: optimizing available space in mixed use or multifamily buildings and serving the shared housing needs of senior citizens and transition-age foster youth.

“We must do our utmost to remove every obstacle to solutions that help California address our housing crisis,” said Senator Josh Becker, D-Peninsula. “I thank Housing Committee Chair Senator Scott Wiener and my colleagues on the committee for their support of my legislation to eliminate legal loopholes that have impeded creation of ADUs and intergenerational affordable housing for two vulnerable populations: seniors and transition-age foster youth.”

For almost 40 years, California law has recognized the value of accessory dwelling units -- better known as ADUs, in-laws and granny flats – as a housing opportunity for family members, students, the elderly, in-home health care providers, the disabled, and others, at below market prices within existing neighborhoods.

But the law also makes it difficult to convert unused commercial and retail space in mixed use buildings and multifamily residential housing into these popular units. At the local level, applications for such conversions are often denied because current law does not specifically state that unused commercial and retail space can be converted into ADUs.

Senate Bill 778 clarifies existing law and specifies that the issues addressed by the legislation are a “matter of statewide concern rather than a municipal affair,” and as such the law and its clarifications would apply “to all cities, including charter cities.”

SB 591 clears the way for financing of affordable housing that would accommodate senior citizens as well as foster youth in early adulthood.

With the challenges for financing affordable housing, tax credits are well-used tools to help finance senior affordable housing for people ages 55 and older. But currently such financing typically comes with restrictions prohibiting other types of affordable units in the same building. For example, an affordable housing project aimed at serving seniors could not include some units for transition-aged youth, despite the well documented social and health benefits to seniors associated with such intergenerational housing.

“My bill enables creation of housing for seniors and youth to interact and paves the way tor multiple generations to live, learn and thrive together while also providing vulnerable individuals a place to live,” said Senator Becker. “The benefits are mutual, and these living spaces will create a community that traditional forms of age-restricted housing cannot match.”

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