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Placer updates secondary dwelling unit ordinance, aiming to increase housing supply

November 14, 2017

Aiming to help increase housing supply, the Placer County Board of Supervisors today voted to support an update to the county’s ordinance for secondary dwelling units, making them easier to build. Secondary dwelling units, commonly known as in-law suites or granny flats, are permanent dwellings that are accessory to a primary dwelling on the same site.

The updated ordinance allows flexibility for either the primary or secondary dwelling on the property to be available for owner occupancy or long-term rental (31 consecutive calendar days or more).

Secondary dwelling units are an important source of housing since they can be built relatively inexpensively, have no associated land costs, and the smaller size of the unit tends to make them affordable. The units make it easier for homeowners to accommodate young adults attending college, college graduates returning home and those providing care for aging parents - helping ease pressure on a limited stock of rental housing.

They also create income opportunities for homeowners who want to build dwelling units on their property, creating a wider selection for potential renters.

“We are trying to incentivize additional workforce housing, what we’re not trying to incentivize is additional vacation rental housing,” said District 5 Supervisor and Board Chairwoman Jennifer Montgomery. “We don’t want to turn residential neighborhoods into commercial operations."

The dwelling may either be attached or detached from the primary unit and must provide complete, independent living facilities for living, sleeping, eating, cooking and sanitation. Guest and pool houses are not considered secondary dwelling units.

The updated ordinance allows a maximum secondary unit size of 1,200 square feet on any lot size so long as it meets county height, setback and lot coverage requirements; allows attached secondary dwelling units sizes up to 50 percent of the existing structure’s living area; keeps secondary dwelling units consistent with existing zoning and the county General Plan; and requires only one on-site parking space per secondary dwelling, either as tandem parking on an existing driveway or in setback areas, among other parking requirement exemptions.

Additionally, the ordinance allows a property owner to voluntarily deed restrict a secondary dwelling unit for affordability in order to be exempt from building permit and other specified fees, including county road network fees and county parks and recreational facility fees.

The changes will not apply to secondary dwelling units in the Lake Tahoe Basin, which are subject to different Tahoe Regional Planning Agency ordinances.

Placer County previously eased restrictions on secondary dwelling units in March 2016; this ordinance update brings the county’s ordinance into line with state law passed subsequently that eased them even further. The ordinance is set to go into effect Dec. 12.

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