San Diego County Cities Lean on ADUs as Affordable Housing Solution

Some jurisdictions are making ADUs easier and cheaper to build, but rents on even small units remain high as the region struggles to meet its housing production goals.

1 minute read

October 9, 2022, 11:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


Aerial view of coastline with homes in Encinitas, California

Kyle Sprague / Encinitas, California

Some cities in north San Diego County want to make it easier for residents to build accessory dwelling units, also known as ADUs, which are providing an affordable housing option to renters in the pricy region. As Laura Place reports for The Coast News, in Encinitas, where the city approved 79 ADU permits in the first 8 months of this year, homeowners can access a set of pre-approved building plans to skip the expense of having plans drawn. The city of Carlsbad plans to launch a similar program.

Cities also hope ADUs can help fulfill their state-mandated affordable housing targets. “In Del Mar, one of the county’s most expensive and affluent cities, an ADU Incentive Pilot Program offers developers and property owners a 500-square-foot floor area bonus if they agree to rent out the ADU to low-income households for at least 30 years.” However, over four years, the program has yielded only one deed-restricted ADU that has not been rented out to a low-income resident yet.

“Developers say that just because ADUs can be smaller than usual apartments, this does not mean they are cheaper when it comes to construction, and rents per square foot are often higher.” Without regulations and programs that incentivize income-restricted ADUs, many of these units will likely remain out of reach for low-income renters.

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