Accessory Dwelling Units are a grassroots solution to our housing affordability crisis. Berkeley now needs to create new models of housing policy to accommodate them.
Tonight the Berkeley City Council will vote on legalizing and regulating short-term rentals, defined as rentals which last for less than fourteen days. Currently, such rentals are illegal in Berkeley, though that hasn’t stopped multi-billion dollar companies such as Airbnb from ignoring the law. With Airbnb’s assistance, certain landlords around the state have been able to remove entire apartment buildings from the long-term rental market by converting them into illegal hotels. In Berkeley alone, 400 rent-controlled units are being used only as short-term rentals. As a result, tenants who otherwise would have been able to live long-term in these units have been displaced, worsening Berkeley’s housing emergency.
Berkeley City Council is attempting to promote creation of long-term housing by reducing restrictions on “granny flats” and “accessory dwelling units” (ADU’s). The state of California similarly has Government Code Section 65583(c)(1). But something crucial is missing: social protection for homeowners.
Berkeley officials voted unanimously Tuesday night to streamline the process for homeowners who want to add secondary units — sometimes called in-law units or granny flats — to their properties.
As we know, our population is aging and more people are confronting the need to plan for appropriate living arrangements. An Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU), either for a caretaker’s apartment or as a downsizing option, is becoming increasingly popular. The concept is not new. Commonly known as “in-law” units, these small dwelling spaces exist in a variety of forms, from basement or attic apartments to independent structures.