How CA SB 1211 Will Help California Create More Housing

Sean Roberts, CEO of Villa
March 28th 2024

California’s Senate Bill (SB) 1211 is a much-needed ‘clean-up’ of existing law regarding how California allows multifamily property owners to add detached ADUs to their properties. 

In recent years, many multifamily property owners throughout California have used ADU laws to add additional housing units to their properties, thereby building more much-needed housing for communities (in locations already inherently well-suited for multiple residents, managed by experienced operators that provide safe, well maintained housing stock) and also creating more income and value for their properties.  ADU densification is happening at all sizes of multifamily properties, spanning smaller properties with only a handful of apartment units all the way up to large properties with many hundreds of apartment units.  Here at Villa, we have seen an extremely strong appetite from clients that are owners of multifamily properties to build ADUs, and it has become a significant part of our business in recent years.   Building ADUs in infill locations to further densify an existing multifamily property is often a smart way to repurpose underutilized land sites to add new housing quickly and cost-effectively in places where people want to live, work, and go to school.  We explained more about how multifamily owners can utilize ADUs as a value-creation strategy in a recent blog post.

Many apartment rental property owners have excess available land, capital, expertise, and a strong desire to build this housing.  As such, creating pathways for multifamily property owners to build more homes using ADU laws makes a lot of sense for all stakeholders. In fact, we find investment property owners to often be far more motivated, and have far more land and expertise available, to build incremental housing, and at higher ADU volumes, than consumer homeowners.

Under the existing ADU laws in California (prior to SB1211), rental property owners have a clear pathway to ministerial approval to build up to two detached ADUs per parcel on their multifamily properties, and, in some cases, they can build additional units up to 25% of the existing unit count as ADUs through conversions of existing structures.  However, they are effectively ‘capped’ at building only two new detached units per parcel as the law stands today (prior to SB 1211), which constrains the amount of new housing that can be built in this particular application of ADU law.

This ‘cap’ is unfortunate, as these multifamily operators are the most interested, qualified, and capable of building much needed new housing, and have the available land and capital to do so. In fact, many existing operators have told us that they will only move forward in building detached ADUs once they are able to build significantly more than two, as the effort, focus, and mobilization capital required dictates that densification projects only make sense for them at greater scale. This means there are many multifamily operators who could be building more attainable housing currently sitting on the sidelines entirely.

SB 1211 aims to revise ADU requirements to effectively require the ministerial approval of multiple ADUs that are located on a lot that has an existing or proposed multifamily dwelling, thereby authorizing detached or attached ADUs in an amount equal to one or 25% of the existing multifamily dwelling units on the lot, whichever is greater. The bill would additionally authorize two detached accessory dwelling units on a lot with an existing or proposed multifamily dwelling.  

For example, according to Sen Skinner, an existing multifamily property with 24 apartment units would be able to add a minimum of two and up to six detached ADUs (25% of the 24 existing units), so long as there is physical space to fit them at the property.  Moreover, if the property owner chooses to replace a carport or driveway with an ADU, they would not be required to replace that parking at the property.  Many properties in California have excess parking: our multifamily clients often tell us that residents do not use as many spots as they used to. Villa’s clients have already identified many opportunities to build homes in multifamily properties in communities where new, affordable, rental housing is badly needed.

In essence, the bill provides a pathway for multifamily property owners to add more detached ADUs to their existing property through ministerial approval, which allows for more housing to be built where it is feasible and makes sense.

On March 19, 2024, I recently had the pleasure of joining the California State Senate Housing Committee to testify in support of Senator Nancy Skinner’s proposed legislation in SB1211.  Fortunately, the bill advanced through committee that day and is now moving forward in the legislative process and we are excited to hopefully see it become law in the not-too-distant future.

Villa CEO, Sean Roberts, joins Senator Nancy Skinner, and representatives from the Casita Coalition, California YIMBY, and The Unity Council in Sacramento on March 19, 2024.

Villa Homes is delighted to support SB1211 so multifamily property owners can better use excess land, underutilized surface parking, paving, trash, and carport areas by converting them into housing for families.  SB1211 provides more flexibility to multifamily property owners to add more housing units on their properties, which makes a lot of sense for California.  This legislation is another step in the right direction to enable the private market (which has the land, capital, and desire) to help solve the housing crisis in a win-win for both residents and property owners.  Looking beyond California, we are also optimistic that other states will follow California’s lead and open up pathways for ADUs to be constructed on multifamily properties in other states over time too.

If you are a multifamily property owner, or small landlord, curious about creating more housing – and value at your property – through ADUs, more information is available from Villa here.

The information provided here is not intended to and does not constitute legal advice. The information, content, and materials are provided for general informational purposes only. No reader, user, or browser of this site should act or refrain from acting on the basis of information on this site without first seeking legal advice from counsel in the relevant jurisdiction and should contact their attorney to obtain legal advice. Villa expressly disclaims all claims and liability that may be based upon or related to the information provided herein.

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