s
s
Sections
We don't just cover the North Bay. We live here.
Did You Know? In the first 10 days of the North Bay fire, nearly 1.5 million people used their mobile devices to visit our sites.
Already a subscriber?
iPhone
Wow! You read a lot!
Reading enhances confidence, empathy, decision-making, and overall life satisfaction. Keep it up! Subscribe.
Already a subscriber?
iPhone
Oops, you're out of free articles.
Until next month, you can always look over someone's shoulder at the coffee shop.
Already a subscriber?
iPhone
We don't just cover the North Bay. We live here.
Did You Know? In the first 10 days of the North Bay fire, we posted 390 stories about the fire. And they were shared nearly 137,000 times.
Already a subscriber?
iPhone
Supporting the community that supports us.
Obviously you value quality local journalism. Thank you.
Already a subscriber?
iPhone
Oops, you're out of free articles.
We miss you already! (Subscriptions start at just 99 cents.)
Already a subscriber?
iPhone
X

The "Follow This Story" feature will notify you when any articles related to this story are posted.

When you follow a story, the next time a related article is published — it could be days, weeks or months — you'll receive an email informing you of the update.

If you no longer want to follow a story, click the "Unfollow" link on that story. There's also an "Unfollow" link in every email notification we send you.

This tool is available only to subscribers; please make sure you're logged in if you want to follow a story.

X

Please note: This feature is available only to subscribers; make sure you're logged in if you want to follow a story.

We’ve said it before. Building more houses is a surefire solution to the affordable housing crisis.

Of course, that’s easier said than done. We’ve said that, too.

There are practical obstacles — unsuitable land, inadequate water supplies, endangered species protections, steep fees for the new parks, new schools and other infrastructure needed to serve new homes. Oftentimes there are political obstacles, too, everything from neighborhood opposition to a specific development proposal to reflexive objections to growth of any kind.

Is it any wonder that communities across the state are struggling to meet the need for affordable, habitable housing?

There isn’t a solution that will satisfy everyone.

It’s going to take a variety of strategies to chip away at this problem, and state legislators are reviewing proposals to facilitate an approach that could produce a significant amount of new housing without sprawl: adding granny units to single-family homes.

Supervisorial candidates in Sonoma County have floated the same idea.

Consider this: Construction began on about 1,500 new housing units in Sonoma County in 2015. And that was the largest number in several years. Adding a second unit to 10 percent of the existing homes in Sonoma County would create about 12,000 new housing units. A similar increase across the nine-county Bay Area would translate to about 150,000 new housing units.

An improbable scenario? Yes, it is. But it illustrates the scale of the potential gains to be made by scattering new housing throughout existing neighborhoods.

Even a much smaller number of second units could have a substantial impact on the current shortage of affordable housing.

However, converting a garage or adding a second unit can be a protracted and costly proposition, even on a large property with existing water and sewer service.

In a Close to Home column this past week (“A long and costly journey to build just one granny unit,” July 24), Michael Von der Porten of Santa Rosa described a yearlong effort and $150,000 in costs (including the purchase of a 694-square-foot prefabricated home) to add a granny unit on his half-acre.

“In short,” he concluded, “there are no cheap, easy and legal answers to create additional housing in Sonoma County.”

Some communities have relaxed zoning rules or adjusted fees to promote construction of second units, but others prohibit them altogether. A bill by Assemblyman Richard Bloom, D-Santa Monica, would require California cities to allow second units.

Bloom’s measure, Assembly Bill 2299, also would prohibit some common regulatory obstacles, including requirements for more than one parking space per bedroom or an uncovered pathway between a second unit and the street.

Senate Bill 1069, by state Sen. Bob Weickowski, D-Fremont, would bar water and sewer agencies from charging hookup fees for second units built within an existing house or in an existing detached unit on the same lot as the primary home.

These are modest changes, but with the spiraling cost of housing in Sonoma County and throughout much of California, they promise more housing opportunities for grandparents looking to downsize, millennial children looking for independence and anyone else looking for a home in this costly market.

Show Comment