Although “granny flats,” as the name would suggest, are usually envisioned as accessory units for extended family members, they can also be a helpful tool for creating more affordable housing, and cities are taking note. St. Louis, Boulder, Colorado, and Toronto have lately been considering accessory units to help create more affordable housing and foster “gentle density.” Now, a new pilot program in L.A. hopes accessory dwelling units can help curb the city’s skyrocketing homeless rate.
The program, which was approved Tuesday by the L.A. County Board of Supervisors, will connect qualifying homeowners with up to $75,000 in funding to build accessory dwelling units on their properties that will house formerly homeless people, Curbed reports. The county is also streamlining the permitting process. Homeowners who already have granny flats are eligible for up to $50,000 to cover the cost of renovations.
The pilot is scheduled to last 18 months, and only $550,000 has been set aside by the city. But the program could help assess whether accessory dwelling units are a viable solution to help ease L.A.’s homelessness crisis.
Adding granny flats was only of 47 strategies for combating homelessness approved by the board of supervisors in 2016. However, earlier this year one strategy that some cities have utilized to create more affordable housing — linkage fees — was put on hold. That fee would have applied to new homes, office buildings, apartment towers and other construction — charging $5 per square foot for commercial development and $12 for residential. Residential projects with five units or less would have been charged $1 per square foot.
Rachel Dovey is an award-winning freelance writer and former USC Annenberg fellow living at the northern tip of California’s Bay Area. She writes about infrastructure, water and climate change and has been published by Bust, Wired, Paste, SF Weekly, the East Bay Express and the North Bay Bohemian.