In-Law Studios: A Creative Housing Solution for San Francisco

In-Law Unit
In-Law Unit

Grappling with their affordable housing crisis, the City of San Francisco is evaluating this pressing issue from many different angles. One unique solution is encouraging the development of accessory dwelling units (also commonly known as secondary dwelling or in-law units).   Recently, the Board of Supervisors passed two pieces of legislation that now supports this type of housing:

First, Supervisor David Chiu’s ordinance grants legal status to existing illegal units built before January 2013. The ordinance also prohibits the costs of legalization from being passed through to the tenant.  Recognizing the existing illegal units can potentially add anywhere between 30,000 to 50,000 units to the City’s housing stock.

The second recently passed ordinance was Supervisor Scott Wiener’s legislation that legalizes the new construction of accessory dwelling units in District 8, primarily the Castro neighborhood. Density and other planning code requirements are waived to support the development of in-law units. To ensure these accessory dwellings meet the City’s goals of offering these units as additional affordable housing options, the Planning Department will monitor the rents and publish a report evaluating the effectiveness of the ordinance.  Other requirements  include:

  •  limiting the maximum square footage to 750 square feet
  • the units must be built within the existing building envelope
  • for buildings that have less than 10 existing dwelling units, only one in-law unit is permitted
  • buildings with 10 or more units are permitted to have up to two in-law units

Now, Wiener is proposing yet another piece of creative legislation to spur the increase of in-law units. His legislation would allow property owners who are mandated to do seismic work on their buildings to add in-law units within their soft-story buildings. This provides an opportunity for the property owners to earn additional rental income that will make the necessary retrofits viable.

As stated in San Francisco’s Housing Element, the housing market continues to be tight and housing costs are beyond the reach of many households. In-law units in existing residential buildings represent a simple and cost-effective method of expanding the City’s housing supply. Click here to learn more about San Francisco’s planning code for accessory dwelling units.

If you are interested in pursing your own accessory dwelling units, reach out to New Avenue at 855-5NewAve or email info@newavenuehomes.com.

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Have any questions? We are available to discuss your goals & ideas. There’s no fee or commitment. To request a time for a call, just click here and tell us when to call you.