On September 16, 2021, Governor Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill 9 (SB 9), also known as the California Housing Opportunity and More Efficiency (HOME) Act. The passage of SB 9 will forever change single-family zoning in the state of California. The bill was created with the purpose to increase housing in the state. SB 9 allows homeowners of single-family property to divide their single-family parcels into two separate parcels. Also, it allows them to build two homes on each resulting parcel. This groundbreaking law requires local cities to approve the splitting and development of the single-family lots, as long as they meet certain criteria. It requires cities to rubberstamp these new developments.
Requirements and Restrictions
But what are the requirements and restrictions? Here are some of the most important rules for approval:
- The parcel must be in a single-family residential zone.
- The split results in 2 parcels of equal size, with the new lot being at least 1,200 square feet in size.
- The property split cannot result in the demolition or changing of affordable housing, rent-controlled housing, market-rate housing that a tenant has occupied in the past 3 years, or historic landmarks. It also cannot result in the owner withdrawing accommodations from rent or lease within the last 15 years.
- The housing created cannot be used for short-term rentals, and must be rented for a term longer than 30 days.
- The owners will have to sign an affidavit stating they will occupy 1 of the housing units as a primary residence for at least 3 years after the split.
- The proposed project conforms to the zoning and design standards of the local government.
SB 9 also restricts cities from doing the following:
- A city can’t implement objective zoning standards that have the effect of physically preventing the construction of up to 2 units at least 800 square feet in floor area.
- A city can’t impose a setback for an existing structure or a structure constructed in the same location with the same dimensions as an existing structure. Although, a city may need a setback of up to 4 feet from the side and back lot lines.
- A city can’t reject an application unless the proposed project would have a “specific, adverse impact” on “public health and safety or the physical environment” and there are no other options to fix it.
- A city can’t force rights-of-way or the construction of off-site improvements for the created parcels as a condition for lot split.
Impact of SB 9
The potential impact of SB 9 is huge. Homeowners now have an incentive, as well as convenient means, to split their property. This could reduce the housing crunch. It could even create more opportunities for existing homeowners, although what will happen remains to be seen. Will single-family zoning be a thing of the past? Will homeowners take advantage of the loosened zoning requirements? The answer: only time will tell. Yet, it opens up an opportunity for homeowners and those seeking housing in California.