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A California Couple Plans A New Home, In The Backyard

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You’ve heard of NIMBYs and YIMBYs. Now meet the PIMBYs, the "Parents in my Backyard."

Show transcript

Speaker 1: 00:00 If you've been following California's housing crisis, you've probably heard of Nimby, not in my backyard, and you might heard of UMB. That's yes in my backyard. Well now you can add [inaudible] to your housing vocabulary. Parents in my backyard, more and more California seniors are turning to accessory dwelling units or AED use as they age. As part of our Grain California series. Cal Matters. Matt 11 brings us this profile. Yeah,

Speaker 2: 00:31 Paul beam is the kind of guy who laughs at his own dad jokes. A fan going to drive the drive

Speaker 3: 00:38 wall walls.

Speaker 2: 00:40 Can you get that dry? We're going to drive the dry wall

Speaker 3: 00:44 walls.

Speaker 2: 00:46 I just made that up and the 63 year old retired school teacher shows me around the ATU getting built in the backyard of his San Jose home. You might call them in law units or granny flats. And so you are in actually the living room and you got a couple of skylights here. You've got three skylights and the tells it to you feels bigger than it's 500 square feet. But that's still a lot smaller than the home. Just across the yard where he lives with his wife, Rosa, which means less room for lots of things like arguing the threshold there is going to have a sign, no fights allowed. From this point in you can tell Paul's excited about is Adu. Even the attic, there is no light in the attic unlike the book. But you can take a peek up there if you'd like. But what he's really excited about is what the Adu means for his family.

Speaker 2: 01:35 My daughter is a teacher in her husband is a counselor. Their combined income is not enough to afford a home here. So they began to look at the Sacramento area as an alternative. Paul didn't want to drive that far to see any future grandkids, so he and Rosa made their daughter and offer. They would build an adu in the backyard where Daniella and her husband would live and pay rent and in the future, one potential is that my daughter and my son and I lived there for a number of years and then at some point they would move into our house in Rosa and I would move to the Adu. Paul wasn't sure how his daughter would react. The beams are a tight knit family, but nobody's dream home is their parents' backyard. I thought they'd want to deliberate and think about it and they practically spontaneously said that would be great. Back at the Atu, Paul tells me the family is making almost every design decision together down to the direction of the floorboards. Should they go horizontal or perpendicular to the front door. And uh, we took a vote and I was overruled. That's not the first time that's happened. They've made the bathroom wheelchair accessible with a grab bar for the shower. It's just good foresight I think at our apartment,

Speaker 4: 03:00 Paul's daughter Daniella told me she feels that tinge of guilt at the thought of her parents one day moving to the backyard. But Paul says he's looking forward to it.

Speaker 2: 03:07 What matters to me is family get togethers and so forth. So it may seem to you like this would be a problem area, but for me it's not,

Speaker 4: 03:18 especially if it means his grandchildren are in earshot of his jokes.

Speaker 1: 03:23 Joining me is reporter Matt Levin of Cal Matters. And Matt, welcome to the program. Thanks for having me. Now in the case of the beans, do they have a big backyard or is it a tight squeeze to get in this a d you this accessory dwelling unit, how much space do you need?

Speaker 4: 03:41 So their backyard is a pretty spacious backyard. They used to have a pretty full fledged garden where the Adu now stands. And if you are going to build an adu in your backyard, you're better off having a big one. Um, you know there are kind of smaller scale 80 use that you can build or you can even convert a garage if you don't have too much space in your backyard. And those units are often cheaper. But for the most part, you do need some space back there if you want to go this route.

Speaker 1: 04:10 Now these units used to be called granny flats, isn't that term used anymore?

Speaker 4: 04:15 So it is definitely still used, although arp would prefer that you not use it. They view it as kind of a, as a pejorative where it conjures an image of, oh, we're just going to take poor grandma and plop her in the backyard and forget about her for 10 years or whatever. Um, so their preferred Noman nomenclature is a ATU accessory dwelling unit or in law unit. They're trying to get away from granny flats.

Speaker 1: 04:40 How much red tape is involved in getting permits for these 80 years.

Speaker 4: 04:45 So it really depends on what city and or county you live in. Some are much easier to get permits and have much lower fees associated with use than others. San Diego actually has a pretty good reputation now, um, after state laws and local laws have changed, kind of facilitating the, the building of a to use other localities, not so much.

Speaker 1: 05:07 Well, besides providing a place for the adult kids or older parents, how else can d use be used? Can they be built and just be used as an additional rental unit on the property?

Speaker 4: 05:18 Yes, and a lot of older homeowners are using 80 use for just that reason. Let's say they're retired, they're on a fixed income social security, build an adu in the backyard and get some rental income to supplement your lifestyle.

Speaker 1: 05:34 Just adding an adu affect the property tax for the entire lot.

Speaker 4: 05:38 No, you only get charged additional property tax based on the additional value that the adu brings to your property, which is another reason why it's so enticing to older homeowners because of the way California does property taxes, they're going to be paying a steep property tax hype if they a new home.

Speaker 1: 05:59 Now I know there's been a boom in these adu, the Adu permits here in San Diego. Are there any statistics on how popular this idea is becoming across the state?

Speaker 4: 06:11 So there's not great data statewide on the number of 80 years that that are being built, but at the city level there's some decent data. San Diego seen a pretty big increase. San Jose, some other bay area suburbs have actually seen a pretty big increase. By far the biggest jump has happened in Los Angeles, the city of Los Angeles. So in 2018 they received 67 times as many applications for a to use as three years ago. There's a big boom going on there.

Speaker 1: 06:40 So our state officials actually hoping that these ads will make a big dent in California's housing shortage.

Speaker 4: 06:48 They are governor Gavin Newsome hopes to build 3.5 million units by 2025 that's the size of the state's housing shortage according to some state estimates when you talk to state lawmakers who are proponents of [inaudible], one of them told me, you can put me down for a cool million quote unquote. I think that's kind of a rosy estimate to be honest. But they, there's a lot of faith being put in eight to use as a potential solution to the housing crisis that doesn't engender the opposition from a lot of cities in homeowners that other solutions do.

Speaker 1: 07:23 Now you described the beams as a tight knit family. Is it fair to say though that this kind of set up might not work for everybody?

Speaker 4: 07:31 Yes, it would not work for me. Um, I kept prying and asking, aren't you guys going to get into conflicts over something, right? You living in the backyard and your, your parents living in the main house and then vice versa when this switch happens. And they were basically, they basically said, yeah, probably, but we really value family and we don't anticipate this being a huge problem for us. So I, I think it isn't a solution for everybody depending on how well your family kind of gets along. Um, but for those that do it for the beams, it, it seems to work.

Speaker 1: 08:10 I've been speaking with reporter Matt Levin of Cal Matters and Matt, thank you so much. Thank you. This story comes to us from our California dream collaboration. You can find out more@grayingcalifornia.org.

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KPBS Midday Edition is a daily talk show hosted by Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon, keeping San Diegans in the know on everything from politics to the arts.