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Tuesday, Oct 3, 2023

Latest Solution to Local Housing Crisis: Granny Flats

Granny flats are being looked at by the San Diego Housing Commission as one way to help ease the region’s housing crisis.

The idea is that homeowners could be encouraged to build stand-alone apartments next to their single-family homes or as additions that could be rented to people who can’t afford the skyrocketing rents in conventional apartment complexes.

Based on a 2017 survey, the commission estimated that San Diego has room for up to 5,500 granny flats.

To test the theory, the commission is initiating a $500,000 pilot program to provide granny flats on some of the 39 single-family homes it owns.

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“We’re sort of eyeballing three to five,” said Emily Jacobs, senior vice president of housing finance and portfolio management.

The pilot program would use modular housing that arrives in pieces and is assembled on site, manufactured housing in which units are delivered fully built and moved onto a lot and building units from scratch on site to see which is the most cost effective.

Under city codes, homeowners can build granny flats up to half the size of their single-family homes, Jacobs said.

Concurrently, the commission is earmarking $500,000 to provide financing for granny flats that private homeowners would build on their property.

Details on how that would work are still being determined, Jacobs said.

“We’re still at the early stages of the financing piece of it,” Jacobs said. “We’re at the research stage.”

Still, the commission plans to move quickly on the proposal, with a goal of getting the pilot program going by 2020.

Financing could involve the commission lending money directly to homeowners, guaranteeing loans provided by banks and other financial institutions or providing construction loans to granny flat builders, Jacobs said.

“We are reaching out to area banks to see what they’re offering,” Jacobs said. “We’re at the research stage.”

As the name suggests, granny flats historically have been used as housing for extended families — an elderly parent or adult children.

Of late, more and more homeowners have seen them as an additional source of income, Jacobs said.

“There is interest in this, and there has been an uptick in permits for this,” Jacobs said.

Reflecting the change, the Housing Commission has taken to calling granny flats accessory dwelling units or companion units.

Adding granny flats to the housing might put a dent in the city’s housing shortfall, but it won’t be a solution by itself.

“We understand that we need upward of 15,000 to 20,000 units a year to kind of keep pace with the influx of folks loving our sunshine and our weather,” Jacobs said. “Even in our most productive year, our (housing) permits are only 6,500. This is not going to be a big splash but we do have to be creative in thinking of anything that improves production in a cost-effective way.”


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