Housing Resources

Emergency Shelters

LifeMoves: The LifeMoves mission is to provide interim housing and supportive services for homeless families and individuals to rapidly return to stable housing and achieve long-term self-sufficiency.  https://lifemoves.org/san-mateo-county/

Home & Hope offers homeless families safe, nurturing, shelter and support while families work to regain their self-sufficiency. Home & Hope is a values-based provider.

Youth and Family Enrichment Services (YFES) is a private non-profit agency in San Mateo County that provides a wide array of free and low-cost services to help children, youth and adults who are dealing with substance abuse, violence, mental health, relationship and communication issues. Among its many functions, YFES provides shelters for teens.

Housing Advocacy

Project Sentinel is a non-profit agency providing services to help people resolve housing concerns. The agency assists home seekers as well as housing providers through counseling, complaint investigation, mediation, conciliation and education. The services are funded by cities and counties in the greater Bay Area and Central Valley. All services are free and confidential.

Housing for Persons with Disabilities

The Center for Independence of the Disabled (CID) is a private, nonprofit Corporation located in San Mateo, California. CID's mission is to provide support services, community awareness, and systems change advocacy to promote full and equal community integration and participation for people with disabilities. CID is one 29 Independent Living Centers in the State of California.

Home for All San Mateo County Initiative

The "Home for All " is the result of joint efforts of all San Mateo County jurisdictions, private industry, housing advocates and religious organizations has launched a housing policy resource center, a community engagement campaign, and a regional action plan to implement a variety of strategies to continue working on housing, jobs and traffic issues by collaborating with jurisdictions and the community. https://homeforallsmc.org/ 

Making Home Affordable (MHA)

Making Home Affordable is a Federal program to help homeowners avoid foreclosure. If you are struggling with your monthly mortgage payments or have already missed a payment, now is the time to take action. Start today by learning more about the options available to you through MHA. https://www.makinghomeaffordable.gov/pages/default.aspx 

Residential Care for the Elderly

The intent of this program is to provide board and care opportunities for qualifying individuals, some of whom may be longtime Hillsborough residents who can no longer remain in their homes and who wish to continue living in Hillsborough. State law provides that a residential care facility (defined as a facility serving six or fewer persons) is a residential use and must be permitted wherever residential uses are allowed. Find locations of licensed facilities. http://www.cdss.ca.gov/inforesources/Senior-Care-Licensing/facility-search-welcome 

San Mateo County Department of Housing

Affordable Housing

There are many affordable housing opportunities and resources available through the San Mateo County Department of Housing.

Housing Repair Programs

The Department of Housing offers low-interest loans to rehabilitate homes for eligible homeowners. These loans cover moderate (less than $25,000) to substantial ($25,000 or more) rehabilitation to single family owner-occupied residences. Loans are available to low or very low-income homeowners, and owners of multi-unit rental properties that benefit low or very-low income families. Please see the San Mateo County website for more information.

Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU)/Second Unit

Due to the State of California’s affordable housing crisis, 2018 legislation and recent case law require California jurisdictions to approve Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs or Second Units) ministerially. In other words, there should be no discretion applied, and applications must be processed within 120 days.

Aside from State Law, Hillsborough has committed to providing housing choices to meet the needs of current residents and their families along with people who provide important services to our town- like our teachers and police and safety officers. Additionally, adopting “objective design standards” will promote more balanced expectations between applicants and neighbors, further streamline the ADU entitlement process, and maintain the unique character of the community.

The “objective design standards” include references to height, setbacks, architecture and landscape for ADUs.

The City Council Adopted the ordinance on Monday January 14, 2019 you may find a copy of the Adopted Ordinance and Ordinance 753 on Discretionary Exceptions and Additional Benefits.

Please contact Sarah Fleming at 650-375-7416 or sfleming@hillsborough.net with any questions and comments regarding this item.

ADU Ordinance Presentation

Please see the chart below for a summary of the proposed standards compared with today’s standards, along with the objective of each set of standards:



A detached ADU may not exceed 22 feet from existing grade.
Nonconforming ADUs within a setback may not exceed 15 feet from existing grade.
The current height limit is 32 feet from existing grade.Promote ADUs as ancillary in appearance to primary residence and consistent with limit for height envelope.
Second story ADUs built above an existing nonconforming structure must have a minimum 5’ setback and have no openings facing respective property line or lines.Currently there is no prohibition on openings.Promote privacy.


The materials and colors of the exterior walls, roof, and windows and doors must match the appearance of those of the primary dwelling. The roof slope must match that of the dominant roof slope of the primary dwelling.  The exterior lighting must be down-lit or as otherwise required by the building or fire code.These concepts are currently guidelines and advisory rather than prescriptive.Promote architectural compatibility and positive aesthetics.
The second unit must have an independent exterior entrance not facing a public-right-of-way.Currently there is no requirement that the entrance not face a public right-of-way.Preserve single family character/appearance of community.
All second-story ADU windows and doors less than 30 feet from interior property lines shall either be (for  windows) clerestory with the bottom of the glass at least six feet above the finished floor, or (for windows and for doors) utilize frosted or obscure glass.Currently there is no respective requirement.Promote privacy.
All second-story ADU windows and doors less than 30 feet from interior property lines shall either be (for  windows) clerestory with the bottom of the glass at least six feet above the finished floor, or (for windows and for doors) utilize frosted or obscure glass.Currently there is no respective requirement.Promote privacy.
ADUs shall comply with ministerial historic resource standards.No local requirement.Compliance with State Law.
ADUs shall comply with ministerial historic resource standards.No local requirement.Compliance with State Law.
Outdoor showers are prohibited.Currently there is no respective requirement.Promote privacy and reduce conflict.


Limit of one driveway unless otherwise required by Central County Fire Department.This concept is currently policy/advisory rather than prescriptive.Preserve single family character/appearance of community and maximize landscape opportunities.

Evergreen landscape screening must be planted and maintained between the second unit and adjacent parcels as follows: At least one (1) 15 gallon size plant shall be provided for every five (5) linear feet of exterior wall.  Alternatively, at least (1) 24” box size plant shall be provided for every ten (10) linear feet of exterior wall.  For a ground-level second unit, plant specimens must be at least 6 feet tall when installed. As an alternative for a ground level ADU, a solid fence of at least 6 feet in height shall be installed.   For a second-story second unit, plant specimens must be at least 12 feet tall when installed.

These concepts are currently guidelines and advisory rather than prescriptive.

Promote privacy and preserve landscape screening opportunities.

Neighbor Notification

Due to the ministerial nature of the process, notification is required prior to construction only. Notification would be required prior to design review determination for exceptions as noted below.Currently there is no respective requirement.Promote neighbor preparedness for construction activities.


Exceptions to the above requirements, up to the standards permitted for primary residences, would be considered using the standard Administrative Review discretionary design review process.Currently there are no exceptions to ADUs permitted under the Municipal Code.Allow architectural solutions/enhancements appropriate to the unique character of a property.

Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU)/Second Unit

An Accessory Dwelling Units  or "second unit" is a smaller but independent unit on the same site as a new or existing single family house that can be occupied by family members, domestic assistance and/or rental. The second unit can be part of the main house or it can be located in a detached building.

Accessory Dwelling Units provide opportunities for service / rent exchanges, generational family living opportunities and mortgage assistance.

Although the town has permitted accessory dwelling units since 2002, the town is now further encouraging the creation of Accessory Dwelling Units through the following:

  • Continued waiver of Planning and Permit fees
  • Relaxed parking requirements for second units with three or more bedrooms
  • Administrative versus Architecture and Design Review Board approval for most second units (unless there are design or neighborhood compatibility issues)
  • An allowance for the rental of both the primary residence and second unit to one party
  • Renewal of the provisions to allow existing, appropriate residential space to second units when upgraded to code

Please refer to the below guides offered by Home for All in partnership with 21 Elements intended to facilitate Accessory Dwelling Unit development throughout the County.

If you are interested in pursuing the creation of an accessory dwelling unit either through new construction or conversion of existing space you may review the process, requirements and application (PDF), or contact the Hillsborough Building and Planning Division at 650-375-7422.

Shared Housing

The Town of Hillsborough supports shared housing, which does not require a business license.

Residents who have available (surplus) space may wish to share that space or rent it in return for income or care, but may be reluctant to rent to strangers. Shared housing programs, such as the one administered in San Mateo County by the nonprofit organization Human Investment Project (HIP), match persons needing housing (including seniors and the disabled) with those who have available space. HIP interviews applicants and providers and negotiates terms to assure a proper match between individuals' lifestyles.

If you are interested in pursuing shared housing you may review the frequently asked questions handout (PDF), or contact a representative at HIP Housing at 650-348-6660.