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Citrus Heights to launch permit-ready program to reduce costs of new ‘in-law units’

A “sneak peak” of a 1-bed, 1-bath, pre-approved ADU design shown to the City Council on March 25. // Image credit: City of Citrus Heights, Youtube

Sentinel staff report–
The City of Citrus Heights on Thursday unveiled plans for a new permit-ready program it says will help boost the housing supply and could save property owners $6,500 in design fees when adding a secondary housing unit on their property — often called backyard cottages, “granny flats” or “in-law units.”

The program, called “Permit-Ready Accessory Dwelling Units,” or PRADU, will provide property owners with free access to a selection of pre-approved ADU plans — which can save property owners thousands of dollars and time normally spent on design, plan review and revisions submitted to the city.

“It really does provide property owners a way to increase housing on their property for family members; and without the need to purchase land,” Associate Planner Alison Bermudez told the council in a March 25 update. “This program will really serve a need for our community for the requests for ADUs.”

Since 2017, laws have been passed at the state level to relax restrictions on ADUs, as a way to address the state’s housing shortage and skyrocketing living costs. Permit requests have nearly doubled every year since then in Citrus Heights, city staff said Thursday.

“Currently, if you propose to build an ADU on your property, you have to hire an architect and a designer, you have to prepare your plan review, plan check — all costing money and time,” said Bermudez, noting that pre-approved plans will eliminate those needs.

Three pre-approved models will be offered, varying in size from a studio layout, to the option of one or two bedrooms, with one bathroom. Varying exterior finishes and roof lines will also be available, for a total of 13 different designs.

Bermudez said plans will have accessibility features like wider doorways and hallways, as ADUs are often used by seniors and elderly for low-cost housing options. Sizes range from from about 500 square feet to 750 square feet, although custom ADUs can be larger.

“There’s been a lot of changes over the years and a lot of the old requirements you may be familiar with have gone away by the state, and we’ve updated our zoning code to reflect that,” said Planning Manager Casey Kempenaar, replying to a question from a council member about lot size requirements. “So there’s not really minimum lot sizes, and setbacks have been greatly reduced. Even multi-family can have ADUs now, so its really, really opened up to a lot more opportunity throughout the city.”

In a subsequent update on the city’s website, the city said homeowners are allowed to build an 800 sq. ft. ADU with 4-foot setbacks and 16-foot height “on most residential lots, and in many cases a unit may be up to 1200 sq. ft.”

The permit-ready ADU program was developed using grant funds and is expected to be ready in about 60 days, staff announced during Thursday’s council meeting. Plans are currently undergoing plan checks from the Building & Safety Division, after which the plans will be made available to the public.

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