In some positive news for property owners and renters alike, the Oakland City Council is moving forward on a vote to lower the minimum ceiling height for accessory dwelling units (ADUs) from the current 7.5 feet to the state-standard 7 feet. The move is intended to put more rental units on the market and help alleviate the housing shortage by making more potential spaces eligible for ADU conversion. For property owners with eligible spaces, ADU conversion can also provide a source of much needed rental income.
An ADU, often called an in-law unit or granny flat, is a secondary unit with its own kitchen, living area, and a separate entrance that shares the lot of a larger single-family home. An ADU may be attached to an existing house or garage, or built within an existing structure, or it may be built as a stand-alone unit. Many properties have existing spaces such as garages, basements, or storage sheds that could potentially be converted into ADUs, but the costs involved in lowering floors or raising ceilings to meet minimum requirements can make it cost prohibitive for owners.
2016 California Residential Code
R305.1 Minimum Height. Habitable space, hallways and portions of basements containing these spaces shall have a ceiling height of not less than 7 feet (2134 mm). Bathrooms, toilet rooms and laundry rooms shall have a ceiling height of not less than 6 feet 8 inches (2032 mm).
The recommendation to bring Oakland’s ceiling-height requirement in line with California’s slightly less restrictive requirement is being brought forward by City Council President Rebecca Kaplan as part of a larger initiative to help alleviate the housing shortage. At the April 9, 2019 meeting of the Community and Economic Development Committee, the recommendation to conduct a public hearing and upon conclusion, adopt an ordinance to repeal the parts of the Oakland amendments to the 2016 State Housing Law Regulations and the California Model Building Construction Codes affecting the higher ceiling height requirements, received much support and that public hearing is now scheduled for the City Council meeting on May 7, 2019.
If you are a current owner of a property with an ADU, or have been considering adding one to an existing space, we encourage you to attend this meeting and let your voice be heard. While it’s looking like a win-win for both property owners and renters that should receive broad support, it’s always helpful to get the voice of property owners before the council members who often don’t hear as much from the side of housing providers as they do from tenants and tenant advocacy groups.
While the proposed ordinance should help increase the number of ADUs on the rental market, we encourage anyone who is considering an ADU conversion to not go it alone. There are pros and cons to having an ADU on your property and careful considerations to be made regarding how they are treated when it comes to financing as well as rent and eviction controls.
Contact our office any time to discuss your plans. We are International Code Council Certified Residential Building Inspectors and have consulted many Oakland property owners on this issue and are committed to helping you make the right decision and avoid costly legal trouble down the road.