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Growing number of San Jose homeowners building "granny flats"

Accessory dwelling units becoming a key factor in meeting housing needs in San Jose
Accessory dwelling units becoming a key factor in meeting housing needs in San Jose 03:31

Accessor dwelling units are becoming crucial in San Jose, with the city needing to meet certain housing goals.

When Mark Daines' 1890's Victorian was built, no one could have foreseen the housing crisis that would come to San Jose.

"Out here in the backyard, we had an old carriage house that was taken down," Daines said as he walked into his transformed backyard.

He turned part of his backyard into one small piece of the housing solution, like many other homeowners in San Jose.

"We started looking into the idea of a garage, but that led us to an ADU, especially with the accelerated permitting process and everything," he said.

Workers are still putting the finishing touches on the project, a two-car garage with a 800 square foot apartment above it.

There's a living area and kitchen, a bathroom, a laundry room plus a separate bedroom.

Mark said it will be a flexible space: a work-from-home office for now, but it can be a future place for his parents, his kids as young adults or even a rental.

"It will probably have different uses for us over the years," he said.

Mark took advantage of a 2017 San Jose policy change that streamlined the permitting process to allow the homes to be built faster.

"San Jose is a good place for this because there are a lot of lots we can work with," said

Stanley Acton, who has been a General Contractor for decades.

Acton recently shifted his business to only focus on building ADUs, and he hasn't looked back.

"We have a backlog that goes well into 2025," he said.

Stanley is one of several ADU specialist builders in San Jose who have pre-approved building plans from the city.

If the property meets some basic criteria like being large enough and on level ground, pre-approved plans can make the process go even faster.

In six years, the city has issued more than 2,500 ADU permits and about 1,600 hundred units have already been built. Just this year, 68 ADUs have already been completed.

"These are not complicated, bespoke, risky projects," said San Jose Mayor Matt Mahan.

Mahan said ADUs are becoming a bigger factor in San Jose's housing production.

"ADU applications are on the order of a quarter or more of the permit applications we're seeing now. That's a significant share of the new housing production that we're seeing in San Jose," the mayor added.

Typical costs for an ADU build run from $250,000 to half a million or more. And although they can produce thousands in monthly income for the owners who rent them, they also add to their property tax bill.

"We like the flexibility of the space, whether it's for our kids when they come back from college or to help a family member in a time of need," Daines said.

It's new housing that fits in an older neighborhood and fits the needs of one growing family.

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