San Jose residents who may have cut legal corners to build backyard cottages may soon have a way to bring them up to code.
In March 2017, the City Council flagged the creation of an amnesty program for un-permitted accessory dwelling units—often referred to as granny flats or backyard cottages—as a policy priority. On Tuesday afternoon, the 11-member council is slated to approve the program that could launch later this month.
“An ADU amnesty program will provide a viable pathway for residents to make their existing un-permitted ADUs safer while expanding the legal housing stock in San Jose,” Planning, Building and Code Enforcement Director Rosalynn Hughey said. “The program design provides customers an affordable and efficient path to legalize un-permitted ADU units and also ensures the safety of the unit, property and its inhabitants.”
San Jose residents looking to take part in the program will also get a financial boost from a recently passed state law. SB 13, which was authored by state Sen. Bob Wieckowski (D-Fremont) and went into effect on Jan. 1, waives impact fees for people constructing a backyard home that’s less than 750 square feet in size.
Hughey said the law will help residents with “significant cost savings.” On top of that, officials will consider waiving un-permitted construction penalties and permit fees.
Homeowners who plan on renting out their backyard cottage may also qualify for a financial hardship exemption. San Jose currently charges a $200.85-a-year business tax for anyone renting out one to two units of residential property. That fee, however, can be waived if the property owner falls below a certain low-income threshold.
Based on the current fees set by the city, up to $5,862 in plan review and permitting costs could be waived per backyard home. City officials expect 50 amnesty applications by the end of this fiscal year, June 30, and about 100 in fiscal year 2020-21. With those numbers, San Jose could lose out on an estimated $293,000 and $586,200, respectively, and would need to identify an alternative funding source to make up for the loss.
The council meets at 1:30 pm Tuesday at City Hall, 200 E. Santa Clara St. in San Jose. Click here to read the entire agenda.