Update November 15: The Santa Rosa City Council voted 5-0 to extend the Temp Housing Code for another year. Josh Shipper of Generation Housing, along with others, voiced support for the extension. Alethea Larson, interim executive director of The Living Room, spoke about how important Tiny Homes and the Temp Housing code have been to their housing program. “These units have significantly and positively impacted our housing program and the mission that we serve.”
The Living Room operates two tiny homes and a trailer permitted under the temp code. She went on to state that these tiny homes allowed the Living Room to house seven individuals who have now moved into permanent housing. She also called for the temp program to be made permanent, a move also called for by other housing advocates. If the building code is changed to count moveable Tiny Houses as ADUs, they could be permitted on a permanent basis in Santa Rosa.
In a bold move towards addressing the housing crisis, eleven California cities, including Los Angeles and San Luis Obispo, alongside four counties including, Humboldt and Santa Cruz, have adopted innovative housing codes allowing Moveable Tiny Houses (MTHs) to be permitted as *Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs). This groundbreaking initiative is in line with state reforms aimed at accelerating the production of low-income housing, providing cities and counties with a novel approach to creating affordable units on every property.
Santa Rosa, scarred by devastating wildfires in 2017, has already taken steps towards allowing Moveable Tiny Homes as ADUs by adopting emergency zoning code (20-16.030 Temporary Housing) which allows each city property to add an MTH or RV under a temporary five year permit. These temporary housing units were either purchased by the property owner or legally brought onto the property by a tenant. In order qualify for a permit, the property owner is required to install water, electric and sewer connections and, on it’s part, the city agrees to defer facility, impact and park fees for the term of the five year permit.
Take Action: Attend Santa Rosa City Council meeting Tuesday November 14 and/or email a public comment to firstname.lastname@example.org
Today, approximately 80 Temp Units are up and running in Santa Rosa including two units that are owned by The Living Room Center (LRC) which provides invaluable services for homeless women and children. Residents in those units are now rebuilding their lives with the help of stable, affordable housing.
Unfortunately, under the current SR Temporary Code each mobile unit must be removed from the property and utilities must be capped off by the five year mark. At that point the MTH (or RV) must be vacated and removed from the property leaving the installed utilities unused and the unit, and occupant, without a home. A LRC unit will have to be decommissioned by Oct 2024, along with another MTH that was built by and occupied by a previously homeless woman. Many of the other 80 units will also reach the five year mark within the next year or so.
In addition, on Sept 21st of this year we learned that the city’s Planning Dept was recommending to sunset the emergency Temp Code at the end of 2023 – meaning there would be no new five year permits for MTHs.
On Oct 1st a discussion with the Building Dept and a subsequent meeting with Planning resulted in Planning now recommending that the code be extended for another year. If that proposal is passed by City Council in their Nov 14 meeting, five year permits will be allowed to be issued until the end of 2024. We fervently support the proposal to extend the Temp Code and we urge community members come to the meeting and speak in favor of it. Simultaneously, we hope folks will seize the opportunity to advocate in favor of allowing Moveable Tiny Homes to be permitted as ADUs.
Why Advocate for Tiny Houses as ADUs in Santa Rosa?
State Approval and Environmental Sustainability: The state of CA (Housing and Community Development) now allows the use of MTHs as ADUs and we believe that Santa Rosa should support this new option in order increase the availability of affordable housing and to increase our share of environmentally sustainable housing. (Think 400 sq ft unit vs. a McMansion to house one or two people.)
Cost-Efficiency and Monetization: It now costs the state/city nearly $250,000 to house one unhoused person in traditional housing. MTH units are paid for by the property owner or the tenant and they are hosted on private property. This arrangement allows property owners to monetize the use of a space on their property and it allows the creation of affordable units at NO cost to the city.
Regional Housing Need Allocation (RHNA): The state now allows MTHs to be counted for RHNA. State RHNA requirements are designed to assure that the city is meeting its quota of new housing for each income category in the community.
Addressing Affordable Housing Gap: According to the Santa Rosa 2015 – 2022 Housing Element Summary, the city only met 34% of its Very Low Income housing requirement and only 51% of its Low Income housing requirement. However, the city met 113% of its requirement for Above Moderate Income Housing. The summary also repeatedly cites ADUs as the most viable solution to the lack of affordable housing – yet very few of them are being built likely due to the high cost.
Affordability of MTHs as ADUs: The average stick built ADU now costs around $300,000 in our county which is out of range for most property owners whereas an MTH as an ADU is still reasonably affordable. If we really want to create more ADUs quickly, then allowing the use of Moveable Tiny Homes is a key solution.
Support for Those Made Homeless: The city plans to retain Temporary Housing code for natural disaster survivors but, in addition, we support affordable options for those made homeless by disability, job loss and/or simply because the cost of housing is too high for a large percentage of our population.
Moveable Tiny Home Definition:
In order to allow Moveable Tiny Homes as ADUs the city must first adopt a new definition in their municipal code which is summarized below.
A movable tiny home is a unit built on a chassis, which is less than 400 square feet in size and is licensed/registered with DMV. The MTH is built to ANSI 119.5 or NFPA 1192 standards with provisions for independent living quarters with sleeping, cooking, and sanitation facilities. When sited as an ADU it shall be connected to water, sewer and electric utilities as required by the city.
In addition, the MTH shall have the exterior appearance of a conventional single-family dwelling unit, using conventional building materials including:
-residential grade doors and windows with exterior trim;
-insulation with values of at least R13 for the walls and R19 for floor and ceiling;
-framing studs that are 16”-24” on center, with a minimum of 2X4 wood or metal studs or equivalent SIP panels.
The last three requirements in the above definition are designed to differentiate Moveable Tiny Homes from conventional RVs. Thus, the definition does exclude RVs from being permitted as ADUs. However, Santa Rosa does, of course, have the option to allow RVs to continue being permitted under the five-year code currently in place.
Participate in Advocacy:
Last week, retired local government administrator and President of the Tiny Home Industry Association, Dan Fitzpatrick, presented a compelling case to representatives of the SR Planning and Building Departments. The staff politely listened to Dan’s presentation, but they were very clear that any proposal for the city to authorize the use of Moveable Tiny Homes as ADUs would have to come from City Council members and not from city staff.
If you would like to speak to council members on this issue please attend their next meeting on Tuesday November 14. The Resilient City Ordinance (Temporary Housing Code) proposal will be presented at or after 4PM. The Council typically allow speakers 3 minutes to provide their input. Location: City Hall, Council Chamber, 100 Santa Rosa Avenue, 95404. The Zoom option is no longer available so please plan to attend the meeting in person.
Additionally, we are invited to email public comment at any time directly to Christian at email@example.com who is coordinating the Temp Housing Code project for the Santa Rosa Planning Department on into 2024.
Sonya Tafejian, of Tiny House Permits – Sonoma County, is available to advise on permitting needs. She has eight years of experience working with PRMD (Permit Sonoma) and with Santa Rosa Planning Department to obtain permits and remediate red tag issues for property owners. She is committed to helping create more truly affordable housing for folks in our county. Call for a free consultation. She can be reached by phone at (707)779-9474; by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or visit the facebook page for Tiny House Permits – Sonoma County .