Chico mother-in-law units to help with housing shortage?

"It's a really positive thing," said Leo Depaola, Chico's Chief Building Official. "We were really restrictive in the past."

Posted: Mar. 7, 2018 5:38 PM

"Rental rates are going up and the market is tough right now - there's almost zero vacancy factor on that," said Craig Brandol, a Re/Max relator in Chico.

"It's not affordable for a lot of people. The best way to get in here in Chico is to know somebody and rent from a private owner," said Jane Bowen, Chico resident.

It may soon become a lot easier to do just that; 15 different housing bills came through in september in California, and one of them was encouraging so-called mother-in-law-units.

There's a lot of them in Chico, but they're not all on the books.

"Depending on how they're classified with the city it may not be rentable to someone who doesn't live there," said Brandol.

State law says cities need to make it easier for people to build them, but Chico's going above and beyond.

"It's a really positive thing," said Leo Depaola, Chico's Chief Building Official. "We were really restrictive in the past. A lot of it's mandatory but we're trying to make it very accommodating to not make new units but also legalize existing ones -making for a safer environment and increasing property values ... they may still have to do things to make them up to code, but there won't be any penalties."

The rules will be looser - a mother-in-law unit no longer needs separate parking or a large distance form other structures.

"You can go up to 50% of the main home or up to 1200 square feet so they can get quite large," said Depaola.

And the development impact fees for these new units will be cut in half.

But there are concerns.

"They might be far enough from the house on the same lot but really close to another neighbor, so there needs to be restrictions,' said Scott Kronmiller.

"Because the state is really struggling with trying to provide affordable housing, they're looking for any way to meet that demand and they don't care what this could do to a city," said Chico City Councilmember Andrew Coolidge. "I'm concerned with changing garages into extra units and changing the feel and the look of some of these historical neighborhoods that we have here in Chico".

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