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How Property Owners Can Add More Living Space With SB9

California approves lot splits on single-family residences, transitioning away from traditional zoning, allowing up to 4 units on one property.
September 29, 2021 12:00am
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Senate Bill 9 was signed into law on September 16, 2021, ending traditional single-family zoning. Effective January 1, 2022, senate bill 9 authorizes property owners to split a single-family residence into two lots. Within each lot, property owners can build as many as two units on each lot, a total of four units on one property. SB9 is the first bill in the California Comeback Plan (SB 8,9,10) set to smooth the permitting obstacles in construction and increase housing production.

The recent zoning changes align California with states like Oregon, Washington, and Minnesota regarding land use and housing opportunities. The root of the bill stems from California's dire housing crisis, which will contribute to the 150,000 homeless on the streets, the insufficient housing supply for the demand, and a lack of affordability with housing prices averaging $800,000.

California estimates that approximately 1.8 housing units are needed by 2025 to meet current demands. SB9 introduces how to add more living space to an existing single-family residence; however, you may want to consider a few criteria before you engage in the lot split. 

1. Lot Size

According to SB9, to complete the lot split, each lot must be a minimum of 1,200 sq ft. However, it's essential to verify with your city agency to assure they have not set a lower minimum. The new law also requires the lot split to be a close to equal divide, resulting in a 60/40 split at most.

2. Lot regulations

Properties zoned as single-family residential in California are the only type of lots that are authorized the split. Another vital requirement to consider is that the single-family residence wanting to complete the division is in an urban area, surrounded by other suburbs. This rule exists since SB9 encourages more housing construction in places where residents can live close to work.

3. Prior Splits

Single-family residences will not be considered for a lot split if the property owner previously subdivided an adjacent parcel through an SB 9 lot divide.

4. Three-Year Owner Occupancy

To qualify for the lot split, the property owner must agree to reside on the property as their primary residence for a minimum of three years once the lot separation is complete.

According to a study from the Terner Center for Housing Innovation at UC Berkeley, approximately 5.4% of single-family residences in California are eligible for lot split. This qualification could create over 700,000 new living units. As we approach the new year, it's vital to inquire with an experienced contractor to verify details and land-use strategies with your local agency. If you’re interested in learning more about how you can take advantage of SB9, schedule a free phone consultation with us here