Our Guide to California's New SB9 Housing Law

Our Guide to California's New SB9 Housing Law

By: Technick

Recently, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed two bills that officially lifted traditional single-family zoning restrictions in most neighborhoods all over the Sunshine State. These bills, Senate Bills 9 and 10, are set to take effect on January 1, 2022. It aims to remove barriers that hinder Californians from building more than one housing unit on several properties that, for many decades, have been cordoned off for single-family homes only. 

With these bills, cities have more flexibility and freedom since they can construct small apartment complexes in neighborhoods close to public transit. Housing will become more accessible and make substantial strides towards addressing the state’s severe housing crisis, although experts say it isn’t enough to resolve the issue altogether. If you’re planning to work with home construction companies to build your new house, you’ll want to understand how this law may affect you. Here’s what you need to know about Senate Bill 9:

Breaking Down Senate Bill 9

Senate Bill 9 is widely perceived to be the more controversial of the two new laws since it permits property owners to divide a single-family lot into two lots, build a second home on their lot, or split their lot into two and put duplexes on each one. The last option would result in four housing units on a property that is presently limited to a single-family house.

This new law is a significant shift from current policies that permit only two large units made up of a stand-alone house and an accessory dwelling unit on single-family lots. It also allows an attached junior unit at a maximum of 500 square feet. With this law, cities and counties in the state must approve development proposals that adhere to specified design and size standards.

What are its Conditions?

While the law was made to provide more affordable housing to low-income individuals, it also has caveats. This law prohibits a project from causing the demolition or alteration of affordable or rent-controlled housing or market-rate housing that a tenant has occupied in the last three years. Additionally, some properties are prohibited from being turned into new developments, like historical landmarks or those within a historic district. More exemptions to this law include wetlands, farmland, and properties at an increased risk of flooding or fire.

Under this law, if individuals decide to divide their property into two, each resulting lot must be at least 1,200 square feet. Additionally, all units created under this law must not be used for short-term rentals, as they must be rented for more than 30 days.

Who Can Make Changes to Their Property?

Landlords and homeowners can apply to change their property’s zoning through their local jurisdiction, but they may do so only if they intend to live on the property for some time. Property owners will have to sign an affidavit declaring that they will reside in one of the housing units as their primary residence for at least three years after dividing their property or constructing more units.

It’s important to note that this law does not permit offices and new housing units to be built on single-family properties. All new units created under this law must be used solely for residential purposes.

When is a Development Application Denied?

Local government officials can deny a development application only when they determine that the proposed project would have a “specific, adverse impact” on “public health and safety or the physical environment” without any feasible alternative options to address these issues. For this reason, it is crucial to review your development application to ensure it is well within the parameters of this new law.

How Will This Law Affect California’s Housing Shortage?

According to a study by the Terner Center for Housing Innovation at UC Berkeley, only 5.4 percent of California’s current single-family lots can be developed under SB9. That means up to 714,000 new housing units will become more affordable, which is only a tiny portion of the 3.5 million new housing units Gov. Newsom wants to be built by 2025.


California will undergo significant changes in housing laws to make it easier and more financially feasible to build homes. If you plan to construct a home under this law, let us help you develop your next ADU or multi-family unit.

Technick is a team of custom home builders in Anaheim Hills that builds inspiring residential and commercial spaces. Our architectural services include accessory dwelling units, garage conversions, general remodeling, open floor plans, whole house renovation, and more. Contact us today for a quote!

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