SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) — San Jose is looking in its own backyard to solve its housing shortage, with the city making it easier for homeowners to build small units on their land.
While the plan could increase housing density in certain neighborhoods and aggravate parking problems along some residential streets, the city council decided it was time to ease the restrictions on this type of housing because of the dire need for housing.
Recently, San Jose resident Sumi Kawamoto put the finishing touches on a new apartment unit in the backyard of her home.
We asked, what was this piece of property being used for before? “Really nothing but flowers and lawn,” said Kawamoto.
And now? “And now, it’s a second income.”
A second income for Kawamoto and a nice place to live for someone else in the South Bay’s crushing housing market. “I love the way the kitchen just flows into the bedroom and it’s just a few steps away from the pool,” she said.
The brand-new one bedroom unit has a full kitchen and bath. It’s just the type of housing unit San Jose is pushing for more of.
“We’re trying to eliminate some of the red tape and barriers that may have prevented some homeowners from building granny units in their backyards because we know this is naturally affordable kind of housing,” said San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo.
The city council voted to ease restrictions on where additional backyard housing units can be built, including allowing them on smaller lots. It’s also relaxing restrictions on parking requirements, especially if the unit is near public transportation.
San Jose will also allow for larger two-bedroom units on some larger lots. In addition, the city is moving to bring unpermitted units into compliance by offering an amnesty for owners.
“Rather than looking for more opportunities to fine and give out tickets, we’re looking for opportunities to legalize those units that have already been built and make sure they’re safe, they’re up to code, and add them to the city’s housing stock,” said Liccardo.
Kawamoto’s unit is already up to code and ready to rent. Of course, it’s already generating a lot of interest. “I’ve had about five people come in already since the weekend when I put it on Craigslist.
San Jose estimates the new guidelines for in-law units could generate about 100-200 units or more to San Jose’s housing stock, not nearly enough for the thousands of units needed in the city but at least easing the need slightly.