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Housing Density: Why Is It Important?

This post has been originally published by the Santa Clara County Association of Realtors.
As our region continues to experience a prolonged housing crisis, creativity and political fortitude are required to address our region’s lack of housing supply. Space for development is limited, and therefore increasing neighborhood density and infill housing is of paramount importance.  Infill housing does not mean building massive apartment and condo complexes in the middle of single-family neighborhoods.  It is merely implementing the methods below to create more affordable housing stock while simultaneously allowing single-family neighborhoods to keep the fabric and character of their communities. Please take a moment to read some of the creative solutions to our housing crisis below!
Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs)
Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) AKA granny flats and in-law units can provide important benefits to homeowners and the community. ADUs provide a great secondary source of income for any homeowner that decides to build one on their property whereby increasing affordability and lowering the barriers to homeownership in our region. The permitting process and cost associated have historically been too significant for most homeowners to access this potential benefit of homeownership. Recently, the state of California and local municipalities have taken major steps to improve the permitting process, decrease regulations, and lower the costs.

The largest city in our county, San Jose, has recently taken several steps to increase the production of ADUs. San Jose has passed several policies in the past couple of years to decrease regulations and the guidelines for an ADU to be developed.

This streamlining includes a set of pre-approved master plans from certain vendors that homeowners can choose from to expedite the process and most likely reduce costs and a universal checklist for building an ADU. Additionally, every Tuesday at San Jose City Hall Planning Department, homeowners have the opportunity to receive an express review service for an ADU permit.

Lastly, San Jose, in partnership with Housing Trust Silicon Valley, has approved a forgivable loan program of up to $20,000 per household for homeowners who agree to rent their unit at an approved affordable rate for 5 years.

Other cities in the region have been following in San Jose’s footsteps looking at how to decrease costs and permitting delays for the building of ADUs. The cities of Campbell and Milpitas have already passed significant legislation to decrease the regulations of ADUs.

Missing Middle Housing

Infill housing in the Bay Area region is underutilized but extremely valuable and important to help solve the housing crisis. This type of housing can be defined as several different structures such as 4-plex or a group of townhomes that provides a buffer between traditional single-family homes and neighborhoods and mid-rise multi-family housing complexes such as a 4-8 story apartment complex.

With Urban Villages being proposed and permitted near single-family neighborhoods near transit hubs mid-rise residential complexes surrounding single-family homes are becoming a reality.

These forms of missing-middle and entry-level ownership housing are the perfect solutions to provide step-downs and buffer zones for these residential neighborhoods with minimal impact to the community.

Many local cities and the state are exploring General Plan changes to allow more of this missing middle housing to be built.

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