At the Oct. 23 Bakersfield City Council hearing, staff brought a recommended ordinance to the council for implementation of recent state legislation regarding accessory dwelling units. Accessory dwelling units, or ADUs, are more commonly called “mother-in-law quarters.” Most ADUs are in the backyard of a larger lot, or above a detached garage. At the end of the legislative session, the state passed multiple laws pertaining to ADUs to address the housing crisis across the state.

The city of Bakersfield first referred the issue of ADUs to committee at its July meeting. Since that hearing, members of the council heard from some community members who opposed sections of the proposed ordinance. On Sept. 5, the Bakersfield City Planning Commission recommended an ordinance to the Council, which included: 1. reduced mandates on parking requirements; 2. waiving of impact fees; 3. removal of owner occupancy requirements for the main dwelling unit. Opponents of the ordinance wanted to include owner occupancy requirements for the main dwelling unit. After one modified version of the motion to include owner occupancy requirements failed, the council adopted staff's recommendation of the ordinance.

The Bakersfield Association of Realtors, and the California Association of Realtors, have been advocates for these types of pro-active ordinances. We believe the staff’s recommendation to waive impact fees associated with “mother-in-law units” will increase access to quality homeownership in Bakersfield. We need policies that support growth and encourage a balanced supply and demand of housing opportunities, while also protecting private property rights and streamlining the permitting process. We oppose the imposition of narrow-focused fees and taxes, such as impact fees, that increase the cost of housing and reduce opportunities for homeownership. We also believe in responsible homeownership that does not degrade the integrity of any neighborhood.

We support and applaud the staff’s recommendation and the council’s decision to waive impact fees for ADUs. A host of economic and regulatory issues have created the current housing crisis across the state, and people are often living in cramped quarters to accommodate family members in need. The city has expanded opportunities for housing by making ADUs more affordable by waiving impact fees and increasing the minimum square footage threshold for the ratio between the ADU and the main dwelling unit.

The City Council did the right thing to protect private property rights while providing for increased housing opportunities for the City of Bakersfield.

Members of the Bakersfield Association of Realtors not only help make the dream of homeownership a reality, they help build better communities. In small towns and large cities across the nation, Realtors advocate for public policy that promotes home ownership and protects private property rights. The Bakersfield Association of Realtors is a non-profit organization that serves more than 2,200 Realtors and Industry Partners.

Athena Collup is the president of the Bakersfield Association of Realtors.