As of January 1, 2022, SB 9, known as the “California HOME Act”, is in effect throughout the state of California. The law allows homeowners to build two 800-square-foot homes on their land or split their land in half for a total of four homes on a formerly single-family lot. Boosters say it will solve the state’s dire affordable housing shortage, create generational wealth and provide more rental and homeownership opportunities for people outside of desirable neighborhoods.
“This is a small first step toward correcting 50 years of wrongs in California cities, where they downgraded all properties and all urban areas to single-family housing and sparked a historic housing crisis that is only getting worse. year after year,” says Matthew Lewis, director of communications for California YIMBY (which stands for “Yes in My Backyard”).
However, the bill has faced vehement opposition, with 71% of Californians opposed, according to a poll this year. Brian Selem, associate broker at real estate firm The Agency, believes the bill is not just an excess on the part of the government, but also bad policy. “If the state wanted more housing development, it should have encouraged local communities that know their communities best to improve areas that are worth upgrading,” he says.
According to LA Conservancy’s Adrian Scott Fine, SB 9 (which excludes designated historic districts) and other laws passed by the California legislature in recent years could ruin the character of some neighborhoods. “They are just very blunt instruments. And I think that’s the biggest concern – that although they’re well-intentioned, how they might be used and how it plays out on the ground could be devastating for some neighborhoods,” he says.
There are also fears that property values may be negatively affected. “When you have a four-unit building, the house next door is going to become less desirable for someone, right? They won’t want that. efficient parking spaces,” says Selem.
Critics believe developers — not individual homeowners — will be the ultimate beneficiaries of SB 9. “Investors will just buy houses and split a single-family home into four units,” says Kenny Stevens of the Kenny Stevens team at Compass real. real estate brokerage. “They’re not going to rent it out at some type of low or moderate rent; they will try to maximize their income.
Maria Pavlou Kalban of the Sherman Oaks Homeowners Association and founder of United Neighbors agrees, noting that SB 9 will continue the trend of developers buying up single-family plots and driving up prices. “They’re just buying houses and using them either for rentals or for disposals, because they own the land and that’s what they’re looking for,” she says. “So now my daughter is competing against someone who has a huge amount of money, and you’re in bidding wars that your salary will never allow you to bid against.”
These concerns led some local government leaders, including the mayor of Solana Beach, to write to Governor Newsom protesting the bill. Now that SB 9 has been passed and signed into law, local towns such as Torrance, Carson and Redondo Beach have reportedly drafted lawsuits seeking to challenge the bill.
Cities are also fighting back through local ordinances. Pasadena recently implemented an “emergency ordinance” to exempt approximately 20% of the city from SB 9 regulations, which the state government has effectively declared null and void and must be repealed within 30 days.
For SB 9 supporters, the opposition’s scruples are much ado about nothing. “The voices are very loud, but there aren’t many of them,” says Lewis. “You’ll have people in blocks of single family homes, opposed to SB 9, because they say a duplex is going to ruin their neighborhood. It’s like, ‘Man, there’s a duplex three doors down from you.’
According to recent reports, only about 500,000 properties statewide in California would qualify under SB 9, and there are no significant subsidies to entice homeowners to take advantage of it. “When you scatter this across the state, you’ll see one to two per neighborhood,” Lewis says.
“There won’t be many people taking advantage of this to change the complexion of the neighborhood,” Stevens confirms. “People overreact to everything.”