By JOSHUA WOLFSON
A new city ordinance could help increase Sonora's stock of affordable housing by making it easier for residents to create second dwellings at their homes.
Under the ordinance, to be taken up by the City Council tonight, a Sonora resident would need only the city administrator's approval to add an independent rental unit to a home. Currently, a use permit needing Planning Commission approval is required.
With a tight Sonora rental market that has experienced significant rate increases in the past year, the changes could help bring more units into the market, said city Community Development Director Ed Wyllie.
"Any opportunity to be able to help the housing pool and make units available we regard that as a good thing," he said.
City staff would still perform a review of the application, Wyllie said, but the change would probably shorten the application process by between 15 and 30 days. Right now, it takes applicants between 30 and 45 days.
Current Sonora municipal code requires that one of the occupants of second dwelling units commonly called "in-law apartments" must be 60 or older. The new ordinance does not include an age requirement.
Passage of the ordinance is necessary to bring the city into compliance with a similar state law that was passed last year and takes effect July 1.
The new law will likely have a greater effect in bigger, urban cities than in Sonora, Wyllie said, but any new units it creates can only help the local rental market.
A second dwelling unit is defined by the city as one that is detached or attached to a larger, primary unit, and provides complete and independent living facilities. It must be located on the same parcel as the primary unit.
Several criteria must be met in order to create a second dwelling. For example, the units are limited to 1,200 square feet and may not exceed 30 percent of the existing living area. Parking, zoning and height requirements also must be met.