California ADU Housing Laws

Understanding California’s New ADU Laws (October 2023) : A Look into AB 1033 and What It Means for Bay Area Homeowners

California has long grappled with a housing crisis characterized by high property prices and a shortage of affordable homes. Amidst this backdrop, Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) emerged as a potential solution to the housing quandary. These units, often quaint cottages or garage conversions on existing residential properties, offered a glimpse of hope for affordable housing. However, their potential was somewhat stifled by regulatory restrictions that primarily allowed them to be rented out, but not sold separately from the main residence.

The landscape shifted dramatically with the introduction of Assembly Bill 1033 (AB 1033), signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom. This groundbreaking legislation unlocks a new world of possibilities for homeowners in California and prospective buyers alike. By allowing ADUs to be sold separately from the primary residence, much like condominiums, AB 1033 catalyzes a shift towards more accessible homeownership and addresses the dire need for affordable housing in the Golden State.

The significance of AB 1033 cannot be overstated. It not only alters the dynamics of property ownership but also promises a ripple effect of benefits for local communities and the broader Californian economy. By providing a pathway for individuals to own homes, it’s a step towards stabilizing the turbulent housing market and fostering community resilience.

What This Means For Bay Area Homeowners

The enactment of AB 1033 has paved the way for an innovative approach towards housing in California. For homeowners in the Bay Area, this legislation could signify a monumental shift in property ownership and affordability. However, the precise impact of AB 1033 in the Bay Area hinges on the adoption of this law by individual cities within the region.

Local Approval

It’s important to note that the implementation of AB 1033 is at the discretion of local municipalities. Cities have the option to “opt-in” to the provisions of this legislation. As of now, there isn’t publicly available information on which Bay Area cities have approved or are in the process of approving the implementation of AB 1033. The passage of AB 1033 is quite recent, and it may take some time before cities decide on its adoption.

Homeowners’ Expectations

Bay Area homeowners can anticipate a potential increase in property value with the ability to sell ADUs separately. Furthermore, the law presents an opportunity for homeowners to explore new avenues of revenue by selling or renting out ADUs. The legislation also aligns with broader housing affordability and community resilience goals, which are pressing issues in the Bay Area.

Finding Out More

For precise information on the implementation of AB 1033 in their locality, Bay Area homeowners are encouraged to contact their city offices or local housing authorities. They can provide up-to-date information on the status of AB 1033 implementation and any specific guidelines or procedures that homeowners need to follow.

Additionally, homeowners can stay informed through local housing advocacy groups or regional housing authorities like the Bay Area Housing Finance Authority which is dedicated to addressing housing affordability challenges​1​.

AB 1033: Unveiling New Opportunities

The journey of Assembly Bill 1033 (AB 1033) from conception to law marks a pivotal chapter in California’s housing narrative. Sponsored by Assembly member Phil Ting from San Francisco, the bill was embraced and signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom, signaling a paradigm shift in the state’s housing policies.

Legislative Background

  • Bill Sponsorship: The architect behind AB 1033, Assembly member Phil Ting, envisioned a law that could open the doors to affordable homeownership. His initiative stemmed from a vision of empowering Californians to own homes without being shackled by exorbitant prices typical of the Californian real estate market.
  • Gubernatorial Approval: Governor Gavin Newsom’s signature on AB 1033 wasn’t just a formality but a strong endorsement of a law anticipated to alleviate the housing affordability crisis plaguing the state.

Key Provisions

  • Sale of ADUs: The hallmark of AB 1033 is its provision allowing ADUs to be sold separately from the primary residence, effectively morphing them into individual condominium units. This feature essentially creates mini-condos out of backyard cottages, basement apartments, and other forms of ADUs.
  • Municipal Discretion: Interestingly, the law provides municipalities with the discretion to formulate specific rules governing the conversion of ADUs into condos. This decentralized approach allows for local tailoring of housing solutions, catering to the unique needs and circumstances of different communities.


  • Opt-In Clause: The law’s opt-in clause empowers cities to decide whether they wish to adopt the provisions of AB 1033. This opt-in mechanism ensures that the law’s implementation aligns with local housing needs and priorities.
  • Homeowners Associations: Upon opting in, properties with ADUs will be required to form homeowners associations to manage shared spaces and other communal responsibilities, laying the groundwork for a structured co-existence between homeowners.


  • Addressing Affordability: AB 1033 stands as a beacon of hope for many aspiring homeowners deterred by California’s soaring property prices. By facilitating the sale of ADUs, the law nudges the housing market towards a more inclusive and accessible landscape.
  • Community and Economic Impact: Beyond individual homeownership, the ripple effect of AB 1033 is expected to reverberate through local communities and the broader economy. It’s a step towards retaining a diverse demographic in California, including essential workers and the elderly who desire to downsize yet remain in their cherished communities.

With AB 1033, California doesn’t just address a pressing housing issue; it unveils new avenues for homeowners and establishes a precedent that could influence housing policies beyond its borders.

The ADU Phenomenon in California

The Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU), often seen as a modest backyard cottage or a tastefully converted garage, has been a part of California’s architectural landscape for years. However, its potential as a viable housing solution started gaining traction amid rising property prices and the persistent housing crunch.

Historical Context

  • Previous Restrictions: The path of ADUs wasn’t always smooth. Regulatory hurdles initially allowed these units only to be rented out, not sold separately, thereby limiting their potential as a long-term housing solution.
  • Growth Spurt: Despite the restrictions, the allure of additional living space or rental income saw a significant uptick in ADU constructions. Between 2020 and 2022, a whopping 44,532 ADU building permits were issued across the state, reflecting a growing acceptance of this housing model​1​.

Types of ADUs

  • Variety and Versatility: ADUs come in various shapes and sizes, from quaint backyard cottages to basement apartments and above-garage units. This versatility makes them a fitting solution for a range of housing needs.
  • Customization: The ability to customize ADUs according to personal preferences or existing property layouts makes them an attractive option for homeowners and prospective buyers.

Benefits of ADUs

  • Affordable Housing: ADUs represent a stride towards affordable housing, providing a lower-cost alternative in a state where traditional homes often come with a hefty price tag.
  • Property Value and Income: Besides offering additional living space, ADUs can significantly boost property values. Moreover, the rental income potential can provide a steady revenue stream for homeowners, improving their financial stability.

Community Integration

  • Enhanced Community Fabric: The integration of ADUs within existing residential areas fosters a sense of community. It allows for a mix of residents, contributing to a vibrant, diversified neighborhood.
  • Localized Solutions: The ADU model provides localized solutions to housing challenges, allowing communities to address their housing needs in a manner that resonates with their unique circumstances and preferences.

The ADU phenomenon is not just a fleeting trend but a robust response to California’s housing crisis. With the advent of AB 1033, the horizon broadens further, potentially ushering in a new era of homeownership and community living in California.

Federal Support: Bolstering the ADU Initiative

The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) under the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has taken significant strides to bolster the ADU initiative, showcasing a concerted effort between federal and state entities to address the housing challenge. The recent policy unveiled by the FHA now allows rental income from ADUs to be included in mortgage assessments. This groundbreaking policy facilitates a smoother pathway for homeownership, especially for those finding the financial commitment challenging.

The FHA’s new policy doesn’t stop at just easing mortgage assessments; it introduces ADUs to FHA mortgages for new construction. This development is set to have an immediate impact as FHA-approved lenders can now offer this new opportunity to prospective homeowners without delay. The immediate implementation signifies a robust federal support system backing the ADU initiative, aligning perfectly with California’s AB 1033 to create a conducive environment for ADU construction and ownership.

Additionally, the policy outlines specific guidelines for appraisers, which is a step towards standardizing the ADU valuation process. It’s a move that not only augments the transparency in ADU transactions but also instills a sense of confidence among buyers and sellers.

Moreover, the policy’s flexibility is noteworthy. It enables 75% of the estimated ADU rental income to be considered for some borrowers, making it easier for them to qualify for an FHA-insured mortgage. This flexibility is expected to resonate well with a broad spectrum of potential homeowners, making the dream of homeownership a tangible reality for many.

Lastly, the FHA’s policy is a testament to the federal government’s recognition of ADUs as a viable solution to housing challenges. It complements the objectives of AB 1033, weaving a stronger safety net for individuals and families striving to own a home amidst California’s soaring property prices.

Learn More About Your ADU Options in California

The enactment of Assembly Bill 1033 (AB 1033) heralds a significant shift in California’s housing landscape. By granting homeowners the ability to sell Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) separately from their primary residences, a new avenue for affordable homeownership is unveiled. This legislation doesn’t just stand alone; it aligns seamlessly with federal initiatives that also aim to mitigate the housing affordability crisis. The synergy between state and federal policies amplifies the potential impact of AB 1033, making the path to homeownership less daunting for many Californians.

Element Home Remodeling is a design build contractor in Mountain View, California. We specialize in designing and building custom ADU housing. Contact us today to learn more about your ADU options and to schedule a free consultation.

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