the Sandpiper Editors
Meeting Del Mar’s state-mandated 22 unit affordable housing goal is proving to be a difficult challenge. And just around the corner in less than 2 years we will be tasked with creating even more affordable units in the next eight year cycle.
We believe there is a relatively easy path that could make significant progress toward achieving these goals. We should focus on granny flats. Many of these small living spaces already exist in our community and new ones could be developed. The cost is modest and the impact on the character of our town is modest.
Granny flats (accessory dwelling units or ADUs) are additional housing units on an existing property. Typically, they are usually less than 600 square feet but some cities allow up to 1200 square feet on larger parcels. In many jurisdictions they can be deed restricted for rent at officially-established affordable rates for a thirty year period. They are ideal for new college graduates, young people with lower paying jobs, or seniors on fixed incomes. They could also accommodate child care workers, home helpers, or even real grandparents (grannies). In addition to building our housing supply, they produce additional income for homeowner mortgage payments.
The key to success using this strategy is to develop a package of incentives that make granny flat production attractive. Other cities are reducing fees, eliminating parking requirements, and allowing modest density bonuses. Del Mar is now conducting a modest pilot FAR density bonus program for two granny flats. Some cities are moving more aggressively providing easy mortgage loan arrangements and paying design professionals for permit- ready design templates to reduce architectural costs.
Recent estimates suggest that we may already have quite a few existing granny flats built over the years without permits. Many of these units are probably already rented at affordable rates. If the city were to open a two- or three-year amnesty period to encourage owners to legalize these units into the affordable unit program, they could be counted as part of our state requirement. Recent state laws mandate removing barriers to granny flat production, including exempting them from local review ordinances.
We recognize that funds are required for many of these incentives, as well as other housing efforts under our Housing Element and our “22 in 5” affordable housing program. Del Mar will begin its budget review process this month. We expect to be seeing an emphasis on cutting costs, so expecting the Council to fund these affordable housing efforts is a big ask. We urge the Council to decisively embrace affordable housing as a top priority. And to fund them, we urge the Council to give strong consideration to implementing the last one-half percent, voter-approved hotel tax (TOT) and dedicate those revenues to make affordable housing a reality for the first time in decades.
Affordable housing efforts are not welfare programs. They are a practical way to solve real state and local housing shortages for middle income citizens. And in Del Mar they give us an opportunity to welcome new, interesting neighbors to join us in building community.