All About Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs), May 15th 2019

The panel discussion on accessory dwelling units (ADUs) was informative and well attended with almost every one of the 112 chairs taken, people standing and most of the audience staying to the very end.

Craig Mizushima, Chief Impact Officer with Housing Trust Silicon Valley

Craig described the types of ADUs – attached, detached, garage conversions and junior ADUs. He said a lot of people are interested in building ADUs, and by a show of hands, that was true this evening as well. The Housing Trust has held many workshops over the years and hundreds of people have attended.

Most people finance their project and this can be a barrier as conventional home loans are not available. To make financing more accessible, the Housing Trust offers a 3-year loan with the restriction that the rent for the ADU be affordable, currently less than $2000/month and is limited by the income of the renter. After three years the owner can show an income history and arrange conventional financing. 

For more information visit https://housingtrustsv.org/.

Jon Biggs, Community Development Director, City of Los Altos

Jon reviewed changes adopted by the City last year to make it easier to develop ADUs. These changes eliminated the minimum lot size and increased the allowed size of an ADU to 1200sf. There are still restrictions based on lot coverage, floor area limits and setbacks. In addition, the approval process has been simplified and for projects that meet the guidelines, the process is approval by Planning and issuance of a Building Permit, with a quick turnaround. Jon strongly recommends talking to a planner early in the process.

Eoin Matthews, Point

Eoin offered some insights into financing an ADU, both with conventional products and with a novel product offered by Point that provides funds with no debt and no monthly payments in return for a share of the home’s future equity. 

For more information visit https://point.com/.

Greg Popovich, Goldbar Builders

Greg described the design/build process that they offer. They have a long history of building ADUs and he offered some useful insights – attached units can help meet setback requirements but at added cost; garage conversions sound easy but in 9 out of 10 cases it is less expensive to demolish the garage and start over; master bedroom conversions are easy, just add an exterior door and a kitchenette, but keep in mind, you will then have someone living in your house. He gave us some cost and time estimates – $325/sf and up, 14-60 days for design, up to 120 days for approval/permit, and 90-120 days to build. He added that it is relatively easy and quick to work with Los Altos. 

Greg’s website is http://www.goldbarbuilders.com/.

David Klein, Modern Empathy

Modern Empathy is a design/build firm that started with the idea of building smart homes focused on the needs of an aging population. David described a recently completed 400sf detached ADU in Sunnyvale that looks surprisingly spacious, is energy efficient, has solar panels and cost $179,000. The owner offered it for rent and had 64 applications! 

David’s website is https://www.modernempathy.com/.

The evening wrapped up with Q&A. 

  • Will my property tax go up? Yes, but only on the value of the improvement.
  • What about parking? Currently, replacement parking for one car is required.
  • What is the added cost of attached v. detached? About 5%.
  • How do you establish shared equity? Get an appraisal upfront.
  • If I sell the house, do I have to remove the ADU? There used to be such rules, but no longer.
  • What are the tax consequences? Renting is a business so you can deduct expenses and depreciate the cost.
  • Is the size of the kitchen limited? It must meet building code requirement, but the size is not considered.
  • Must the rent be for low income tenants? With Housing Trust Silicon Valley loans, there are income limits, otherwise it can be market rate.
  • Is a new electrical meter required? No, and it would add $10-15,000 to the cost as well as long delays getting connected to PG&E.
  • Have the setback rules been changed? No, current rules still apply. Existing, permitted structures can be modified providing they meet other restrictions.
  • Can I replace a pool with an ADU? Yes, but removing a pool and filling it with properly compacted soil can cost $18-25,000.
  • Can I separate my house from the ADU with a fence? Yes.
  • Is there a limit on the number of bedrooms in an ADU? Not by code, but there are practical limits.
  • What are the fees? The plan check is $595. The building permit is based on the cost of the project. There are also school impact fees, although they are waived if the ADU is less than 500sf. Note – added after the meeting: the school fee is $3.79/sf, shared by the high school and elementary districts.
  • What about rent control? We don’t have rent control.
  • Are fire sprinklers required? Only if the main house is required to have them, although the fire department can require them on a case by case basis.
  • How can we speed up the process? Talk to a planner, review the check list carefully and have clear, concise plans.

Let’s hope this interest turns into record numbers of permits for new ADUs in Los Altos and Los Altos Hills.

Home Sharing in Los Altos:
How it Works and Benefits to Homeowners, April 2, 2019

Home sharing is an excellent way Los Altos can use existing housing resources to expand opportunities for affordable housing. We currently have over 13,000 homes in Los Altos and Los Altos Hills, many with two or more spare bedrooms.

The program included the following six panelists who addressed both the need for home sharing and home sharing solutions.

Susan Castillo with Catholic Charities described their proven program that matches people needing rooms with homeowners. The program offers background checks and pairs people based on their interests and needs. Homeowners can benefit both financially and socially through companionship with their tenant. 

To find out more, see https://www.catholiccharitiesscc.org/house-sharing

Erin Green, Director of Student and Staff Services at Los Altos School District described the challenges she faces with teacher hiring and retention with the local cost of housing.  She encouraged homeowners with detached units or rooms with separate entrances to register soon for new teachers starting in August. 

Register at http://tinyurl.com/lasdhousing

Kathryn Fisk, Chief Human Relations Officer at El Camino Hospital pointed out that many of the health care workers have 2-3 hour round-trip commutes because of expensive local housing. 

Homeowners who would like to rent to a healthcare worker or caregiver can register at:  https://www.elcaminohospital.org/landing/staff-housing

Thuy Nguyen, President of Foothill College talked about the impact of the housing crisis on Foothill students. A recent survey showed that a significant number of community college students have experienced homelessness, perhaps sleeping in cars, RV’s or couch surfing.   The college will be having a summit on student housing on June 14th.

Rachael Bruketta, HubHaus project manager described their innovative co-living approach that is an alternative to renting an expensive apartment while creating a community of intelligent, working professionals. 

More info can be found at thehubhaus.com   

Finally, Barbara Liedtke of the HIP Housing program in San Mateo detailed how the program has successfully matched seniors in homes for over 27 years. 

Affordable Housing Solutions for Los Altos, January 31 2019

Randy Tsuda, President and CEO with Palo Alto Housing and Mitali Ganguly, Associate Planner with Opticos Design.

Randy spoke about successful experiences in Palo Alto and Mountain View, and Mitali spoke about the “missing middle” component of affordable housing.

We invite you to watch these informative speakers on the following video.