As Santa Cruz County kicks off affordable housing month, local homeowners have a new program to help incentivize the development of accessory dwelling units (ADUs). The HelloADU pilot program, in partnership with affordable housing nonprofit Hello Housing, offers free feasibility and project management support to those living in unincorporated regions who are interested in establishing an ADU or junior ADU.
With dedicated funding of $670,000 from Santa Cruz County, Hello Housing consultants can provide up to 100 hours of free individualized project management support to participating homeowners. Following initial feasibility discussions, consultants can help coordinate design services, cost estimates, plan refinement, permitting guidance and responses, bid process facilitation, financial planning, and more for the downsized units.
Santa Cruz County Principal Planner Suzanne Ise explained that the program is an additional level of assistance for people who find it daunting, don’t know where to start, or are running into some problems and haven’t been able to complete their project.
The HelloADU pilot program has three eligibility pathways where the homeowner is either income-qualified, will create an affordable unit, or is seeking to create occupancy for an adult with developmental disabilities or another permanently disabled dependent. The goal of the county is to facilitate the creation of 20 units within the pilot program’s three-year period.
The program also helps the county achieve its goal of updating the housing element before December 15, as it requires the county to plan for 4,634 new housing units from 2023 to 2031, more than three times what was expected in the previous cycle. Any accessory dwelling units created through the newly launched program will be counted toward the county’s housing requirement.
The program formally begins with a brief online application that must be submitted before July 31 to determine initial eligibility and share basic information about the homeowner’s vision. If eligibility requirements are met and the homeowner remains interested in the program, next steps include feasibility studies, phone screenings, a site visit, and the signing of a participant agreement.
This new program is a significant step towards addressing the chronic housing crisis that Santa Cruz County and other parts of California face. According to the California Department of Housing and Community Development, ADUs are comparatively affordable to build, can provide a source of income for homeowners, and are often a suitable option for couples, small families, friends, young people, and seniors.
By casting a wide net and offering assistance to those who find the process of building an ADU daunting, Santa Cruz County is working towards creating more housing within existing neighborhoods and helping local homeowners realize their dream of owning an affordable home. If you are a homeowner in Santa Cruz County, apply for the HelloADU pilot program by visiting helloadu.org/new-santa-cruz-county-how-to-apply before July 31.