One Solution to the Housing Crisis is in our Own Backyards

The challenges to purchasing or renting a home in the 9-County Bay Area reflect and amplify the housing crisis facing almost all of California. While our state needs an average of 180,000 news homes built annually, the past three years alone have averaged the construction of a paltry 80,000 new homes. And now we are 3.5 million units behind and losing more ground every day. Economics 101: Supply Down, Demand Up – Prices Rise.  Voila – California’s housing crisis created over nearly three decades of neglect.

The Mercury News’ recent story The Price We Pay, Part 1 of the series by Katy Murphy and Kaitlin Bartley underscored the dilemma we face here in the Bay Area.  While there isn’t a solitary solution, we do have one right in our own backyard(s).  They are called Accessory Dwelling Units, or ADUs.  The term we used growing up was “In-Law Units,” or “Granny Units.”  Another accurate term is Cottage, and “ADUs,” or Cottages, can help solve some of the housing crisis that families face here in the Bay Area and beyond.

Recently, San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo announced a potential partnership with the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, the Silicon Valley Housing Trust, and others to “bend the cost curve” on the production and placement of “Cottages” throughout San Jose – and we hope throughout Silicon Valley.  If we build optional designs in bulk, with the quality construction that families deserve, we can resolve the housing crisis for thousands of families in the short- to mid-term.

Is there interest?  We will soon submit survey data that clearly underscores interest by San Jose homeowners to be a part of the solution, while serving potential neighbors in need.

Since it’s best to practice what we preach, allow me to share my own experience.  For the past eight years, my family and I have lived in the small town of Monte Sereno.  On our property is a small Cottage, about 900 square feet.  We rented it out for nearly 7 years to a wonderful senior citizen who recently moved into a retirement community.  Our Cottage is now occupied by a young couple who also confront our region’s skyrocketing housing costs.  Our experience has been even better than expected, and it’s a triple win: We earn a little extra income; the renter of our cottage can afford a place to live relatively close to their work; and we provide one more fairly affordable home in a region in desperate need.

Interested?  Read up on Mayor Liccardo’s nascent plans for more Accessory Dwelling Units throughout the City of San Jose.  And encourage other Mayors and Councils in neighboring cities to consider similar actions.  Truly There’s No Place Like Home . . . and a place for a second home might be in your own backyard.

-Carl Guardino, CEO, Silicon Valley Leadership Group, June 5, 2019