Press Release

Board of Supervisors passes legislation to eliminate building code fees for affordable housing and ADUs

The legislation reduces barriers to building affordable housing in San Francisco by waiving certain Department of Building Inspection fees for qualifying projects.

The Board of Supervisors today voted unanimously to approve legislation introduced by Mayor London N. Breed to make it less expensive to build 100% affordable housing and Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs), also known as in-law units. The legislation was co-sponsored by Supervisors Vallie Brown and Gordon Mar.

“San Francisco desperately needs more housing—especially new rent-controlled housing—and this legislation will encourage the construction of new homes in all our neighborhoods,” said Mayor Breed. “With building costs already so high, we shouldn’t be adding fees that get in the way of new homes in our City. We need to keep getting rid of barriers that get in the way of building affordable housing, and by waiving inspection fees for 100% affordable housing and ADUs, we can do just that.”

The legislation establishes a one-year pilot program to waive Department of Building Inspection fees for ADUs and 100% affordable housing projects. The waivers would apply to building inspection, plan review, records retention and site surcharge fees. Permitting fees are a significant part of ADU project costs and fees on 100% affordable housing can range upwards of $100,000-$150,000 per project.

“There’s no question the fees waived by this legislation will make a big, positive difference for 100% affordable housing projects,” said District 5 Supervisor Vallie Brown. “I hope the same will be true for ADUs because we know that many of the property owners building this housing are doing so to house their senior parents, college-age children, or other family members, or else to rent out to single person households at lower rents for supplemental income.”

ADUs are an important part of Mayor Breed’s strategy to create more housing throughout the City, and the only way to add new rent controlled units to San Francisco’s housing supply. In August 2018, Mayor Breed issued an Executive Directive to accelerate the approvals of ADUs. Since the Executive Directive was issued, the City has permitted 573 ADUs and has cleared its backlog of ADU applications. As a result, the City has permitted more in-law units than it did in the previous three years, when the City’s in-law program was first launched. When an ADU is built within a rent-controlled building, that new ADU is also subject to rent control. Over 90% of ADU applications in the city are subject to rent control.

Prior to the creation of the ADU program in 2014, the City departments involved in permitting housing did not have clear and consistent standards on what is required to add new ADUs to existing single-family homes and apartment buildings. Instead, departments handled these complex applications on a case-by-case basis, resulting in unnecessarily long review periods, inconsistencies in direction to project applicants, and a large backlog of permit applications.

Further information about the City of San Francisco’s Accessory Dwelling Unit program is available online at sfdbi.org/adu.