Building an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) in Santa Cruz Is a Viable Option

If you've lived in your home in Santa Cruz for many years, you may be concerned about real estate market trends and other rising costs in the area. Once you retire, you will be receiving a fixed income and might not be able to keep up with increasing costs. Also, your children might not be able to afford to stay in the area once they leave home, and so they may have to move to a different locality. These are genuine concerns for some, and local officials and politicians are actively considering various ways and means to help alleviate the financial burdens some will face when electing to age in place in their current homes.

Recently, the publication LIFE everything Aptos, Capitola & Soquel detailed ongoing efforts to help people find affordable housing in this article by Zach Friend, a Santa Cruz County Supervisor. According to Friend, the county of Santa Cruz has published an interactive toolkit which allows homeowners to design an accessory dwelling unit (ADU), acquire a permit and begin construction. The Board of Supervisors has also recently reduced permit fees and created a forgivable loan program to defray some of the upfront costs. In essence, it is now easier and cheaper to build an ADU in the unincorporated area of Santa Cruz County.

Friend said that ADUs, or companion units, are an easy and fast way to gain more affordable housing. This will help older residents who want to age in place at their existing locations by building an ADU for themselves while leaving the main house for their family, or who want other family members to stay in the ADU. For people who need extra income, building and renting an ADU is a good option. The Board of Supervisors has put rules in place to prevent these ADUs from becoming short-term rentals.

The new toolkit is available at www.sccoplanning.com/ADU. It includes a summary of regulations, a cost estimator, design guides and FAQs about design, financing, construction and other items. There is also a mapping tool for homeowners to help in initially deciding if their property is feasible for an ADU. Financial assistance is provided by a forgivable loan of up to $40,000 for owners who commit for a time period of 20 years to making their AUD affordable to people making up to 80 percent of median income. Additional help is provided by the "My House My Home" partnership between Santa Cruz County, Habitat for Humanity Monterey Bay and Senior Network Services to assist low-income seniors with building AUDs in order to generate income and stay in their homes.

This is great news for those who may be in need of some type of extra room on their property or who may need extra income. As determined by this new program, most single-family homes on a residential lot in the unincorporated area of Santa Cruz County are eligible for an ADU.

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