Wealthy cities in parts of Silicon Valley are using granny flats to meet state affordable housing goals.

A civil grand jury in San Mateo County reports that wealthy towns such as Atherton, Hillsborough, Portola Valley and Woodside plan to meet as much as 80 percent of their housing goals through accessory dwelling units, or ADUs , The San Jose Mercury News reports.

This allows these cities to avoid building apartments for low-income affordable housing, Report explain.

An ADU, or granny flat, is a small dwelling that shares a lot with a larger single-family home.

A recent change to California’s 1969 Housing Elements Act allows cities and counties to consider ADUs as affordable housing in their state-mandated programs. The affordable housing target triples over the eight-year cycle ending in 2031.

So wealthy cities opposed to building condominiums turned to ADUs. Residents of Atherton, considered the wealthiest city in America, are fighting hard against higher density.

This is a problem because landlords often rent out their ADUs to family and friends, and the state has not proposed any form of regulation to ensure they serve low-income tenants, the report said.

The state has required cities to monitor the affordability of ADUs every two years, but has not said how to prove that the units are rented to low-income families.

The grand jury recommended that the City Council stop using ADUs to meet state-mandated affordable housing goals until they have an effective monitoring system in place. Elected officials must respond to the report within 60 days, and the governing body must respond to the report within 90 days.

“The big problem here is that every ADU that is permitted for low-income housing but not used for low-income housing is an actual low-income deed-restricted affordable housing unit that wasn’t built,” civil grand jury chairman Steven Drace told the Mercury news.

Matthew Lewis, a spokesman for California’s YIMBY, said it’s disappointing but not unusual to see cities “trying to substitute ADUs for their low-income housing obligations.”

Responding to the report, Hillsborough Mayor Christine Krolik said it wasn’t that long ago that ADUs were being hailed as the best solution to the housing crisis in high-priced neighbourhoods. She said the city is encouraging people who own ADUs to rent them out and will track that data.

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“I think almost every community on the peninsula has its heart in the right place,” Krolick told the paper. “We’re doing everything we can to provide the housing we need.

“The conversation here isn’t by and large about opposing these mandates. It’s about how to implement them creatively.”

— Dana Bartholomew

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