SJ Mayor Proposes ‘Granny Unit’ Program to Boost Housing Supply


San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo pitched a creative idea to up the affordable housing stock, and some residents might already have the solution on their property: their garages.

Liccardo, in partnership with Housing Trust Silicon Valley, announced a program to waive city impact fees and offer loan incentives for San Jose homeowners who build an accessory dwelling unit (ADU), otherwise known as a “granny unit,” on their property.

A granny unit is an additional room built into an existing home. It can be a standalone unit or a garage, kitchen or similar space that has been converted into a housing unit.

The program, coined “Yes in My Backyard,” or YIMBY—the opposite of NIMBY, or Not in My Backyard—proposes an allocation of up to $5 million in housing funds for the loans, along with some matching grants from Housing Trust.

To participate, interested homeowners would agree to restrict their ADU for low- to mid-income households. In return, the city would issue a forgivable loan to cover construction and other related costs up to $20,000, so long as the homeowners keep their ADU affordable for at least five years and not put list their unit on Airbnb or any other similar short-term rent service during the duration of the loan.

“Our housing crisis requires we pursue creative and innovative approaches to spur more housing development at all income levels,” Liccardo said in a press release. “This unique opportunity to partner with the Housing Trust will help us leverage the city’s affordable housing dollars more efficiently, and increase the stock of affordable housing for families struggling to keep up with the high cost of living in our valley.”

Liccardo’s memo also suggested the YIMBY project could work with philanthropic and business organizations and construction firms to prefabricate all-inclusive ADU packages that would relieve sone of the cost burden on homeowners.

“Creating ADUs is a great way to add more housing opportunities in existing single-family neighborhoods,” Housing Trust CEO Kevin Zwick said in a press release. “We’re happy to see San Jose continue to use innovative tools to address housing in the region and invite everyone from philanthropic and corporate partners to homeowners to become part of the solution.”

The proposal garnered support from council members Magdalena Carrasco, Sylvia Arenas and Pam Foley. The entire council is set to discuss the YIMBY idea as part of its budget hearings this Tuesday.