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County’s New “Granny Flat” Fee Waiver Program Offers Great Benefits and Flexibility

Scott Youngren, Special to the Village News

I applaud San Diego County’s proactive approach to the housing shortage that affects Fallbrook and all Californians. The San Diego County Board of Supervisors has set aside $11 million to fund a five-year trial program that offers significant fee waivers that encourage homeowners in unincorporated areas to build an Accessory Dwelling Unit, commonly called a granny flat, on their property. The program makes it feasible for a wide range of families to build. The five years will go quickly, so I advise homeowners to start thinking ahead now.

People often tell me that with single-family home prices on the rise and availability decreasing, they worry their children will not be able to afford to live in the area. As a parent of two children, I share their concerns. Some clients want to build a home so their parents can age in place. As an adult son, I understand. With families striving to stick together and help each other, an accessory dwelling unit is a good option, especially since the program offers multiple incentives and great flexibility, allowing dwelling sizes up to 1,200 square feet.

Homeowners can convert an existing guest house or construct new dwelling. Immediately upon learning about the program, draftsman and designer Dave Henrikson of Youngren Construction, who works closely with the county and knows all the ins and outs of processing, began researching possibilities. In the past, several clients built guest houses without a kitchen to avoid the permit fees associated with a full-fledged granny flat. Those clients can now coordinate with the county to convert these “temporary” dwellings into permanent accessory dwelling units at minimal cost, resulting in increased property values and full use of the owner’s property.

Previously, permitting and related fees added a substantial amount, so these waivers can turn a prohibitively expensive project into an affordable possibility. Since the county’s program does not place restrictions on usage as some municipalities do, homeowners can rent it out if they choose, making the option even more attractive.

Homeowners who are considering converting a guest house or building a new granny flat should do meticulous research or contact an experienced, full-service contractor to help them navigate the process. They need to be aware from the outset about setback requirements, what fees are waived – among them, plan check, building permit, drainage, Department of Environmental Health septic plan check/permit, Parks and Recreation and Transportation Impact Fee – and what approvals for building and septic need to be obtained. The county waives fees, but retains stringent requirements needed to meet safety standards.

The streamlined program makes the entire construction process far less expensive and more stress-free. Homeowners may want to invest the money they save by creating a customized unit for their family members or renters.

Residents can contact Youngren Construction at (760) 728-9874 for advice on the new process and possibilities. With 27 years of experience, Youngren Construction has the know-how to guide people through program complexities.

Those who decide to convert or build on their property are urged to rely solely upon accredited, licensed contractors who share references and provide examples of their work. Residents have a five-year window to accomplish this project and many requirements to meet, so they’ll want to make sure to get it done well and done right.

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