One of the most affordable kinds of housing is the granny flat. Granny flats are sometimes called mother-in-law units or guest houses. Whatever they are called, they are smaller second dwellings on the same property as the main home.
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Thanks to the unstinting efforts of Ron Wolsfeld, the El Dorado County Board of Supervisors acted Dec. 10 to cut building permit fees 25 percent for granny flats. The fee discount also applies for two years to additions, remodels, garages and decks. This, of course, only affects construction in the unincorporated areas of the county. Placerville and South Lake Tahoe have their own city building departments.
The two-year program is hoped to stimulate construction activity and employ more contractors and other tradesmen.
On Dec. 17 the board acted further to produce an early Christmas present for homeowners and the local construction industry. On a 4-0-1 vote, with Supervisor Ray Nutting being the abstention, the Board of Supervisors acted to include granny flats within the affordable housing policy, which means granny flat permit applicants can get anywhere from 50 percent to 100 percent off on Traffic Impact Mitigation fees. How much the TIM fee is reduced depends “on the length of time the unit remains affordable,” according to a written report presented to the board.
The TIM fee reduction program for affordable housing has already been used for new construction of five or more units that are qualified as “affordable.” In fact, the board approved $2.2 million in TIM fee offsets for 143 affordable units since 2007. Now the board is taking the next logical step and extending this program for individual granny flats.
“The county recognizes that secondary dwellings are an affordable housing option for lower-income families. Removing barriers for homeowners wishing to add a secondary dwelling provides affordable housing stock the county seeks to provide while preserving the rural culture of our neighborhoods,” the report stated.
There are two caveats to this TIM fee reduction for granny flats. One is that property owners would be required to enter into an “Affordable Housing Agreement” with the county “that would deed-restrict the usage of the secondary dwelling for the length of time required by the offset for affordability requirements, household income levels and approved rent calculation.”
In other words, the county would have to approve your rental rate.
The second caveat is that he TIM fee reduction would have to be approved by the chief administrative officer. This is administrative and organizational insanity. This approval should be delegated to the director of transportation, the planning director or the chief building inspector. It could be two or three of the aforementioned, but that would mean a runaround for applicants. The goal is to get some construction going. Keep it simple. Delegate that approval on affordability agreement to the chief building inspector.
We congratulate the board for advancing this enhancement to affordable housing stock.