Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions2023-08-23T21:31:39-07:00
What is a Housing Element?2023-08-23T20:49:03-07:00

A Housing Element is a State-mandated policy document within a City’s General Plan that identifies existing and future housing needs determined by the State and establishes clear goals and zoning changes needed to meet those goals. The State Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) is tasked with reviewing Housing Elements for compliance with State housing laws.

Won’t the State Legislature change course on housing policy when it becomes clear that cites are getting pushback and many have not complied with State Housing mandates?2023-10-26T15:32:40-07:00

While Sacramento policy decisions are hard to predict, it is pretty clear from Sacramento policy experts that the legislature is even more bullish on housing mandates and that, rather than rolling back recent policy requirements, the State Legislature is adding on more mandates or expanding the applicability of mandates. The housing advocates in Sacramento reportedly have the ear of elected officials and are driving policy while local governments are attempting to defend and retain their diminished local control. The November 2022 election results only strengthened the housing advocates political power.

Aren’t there lawsuits that are going to overturn these State housing mandates? Can’t that alleviate the 2,415 RHNA housing allocation?2023-10-26T15:29:57-07:00

Yes, there are lawsuits in action now by cities. Indeed, Yorba Linda is a member of  the Orange County Council of Government (OCCOG), which has sued the State over the RHNA number for the SCAG region. Additionally, the City of Huntington Beach is on the front line of challenging the State and the Attorney General. The viability of those lawsuits winning and reducing the incursion of state mandates remains unclear at best. As was noted during a discussion at the Working Group, many of the judges that are hearing these cases have been appointed by the very people who are pushing these mandates. That does not indicate a reasonable probability of success with the lawsuits. Preliminary results have certainly broken in favor of the State and housing advocates and not local governments.

I hear there are citizen initiatives being drafted that would return local control to cities and roll back many State housing policies. Can’t we wait for those to win before we commit to this new housing?2023-10-26T15:34:14-07:00

First: if those initiatives are successful, they will not reduce or change the current RHNA housing allocation. They may affect future ones, but all cities are obligated under existing law to address their RHNA housing allocation.

Second: the viability of those initiatives appears low at this time. While there is enthusiasm among local elected leaders and some outspoken members of the public, the initiatives have not seen any financial backing that would help propel them to a ballot through signature gathering. There is no big interest group that appears ready to back the initiative efforts; without money, in a state like California, these are highly unlikely to advance.

The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) analysis on the Housing Element seemed to just accommodate the growth rather than indicate the negative impacts. Don’t the negative impacts of more housing prevent the City from having to accept more housing?2023-08-23T21:35:03-07:00

No. A Housing Element has never been rejected because the environmental impacts were too negative. CEQA analysis generally notes what environmental impacts there are, then attempts to identify how those impacts can be mitigated. While concerns like increased traffic, wildfires, or water availability are valid, and the City of Yorba Linda is working to address these impacts, the negative consequences of these issues will not provide a reason for the City to not fulfill its RHNA requirements.

Does zoning for “affordable housing” mean that Section 8 supported housing or other housing that some might view as having a detrimental impact be built on those sites?2023-10-26T15:24:53-07:00

“Affordable housing” is a term that has taken on some negative connotations for some community members and the mere term can raise their concerns. It is notable that there are several “low-income” developments in Yorba Linda already and there is no evidence of any negative repercussions from those developments. See Exhibit F in this report for an inventory of those developments. Residents are encouraged to drive by those developments and observe for themselves if they see negatives with these developments.

Affordable housing also means different things in different contexts. For purposes of RHNA housing and housing designed to be affordable for low- and very-low-income residents, that only means that the zoning on a site must be 20 dwelling units per acre or more. The theory of that formula is that, if you spread the cost of land over more housing units, then the cost per housing unit can drop and become more affordable. That said, there is also ample evidence of many high-density developments in Orange County where the per unit rent or purchase price is still quite high.

Finally, affordability is calculated using certain income assumptions and that 30% of the household income is spent on housing. In this formula, and using the more recent data inputs from HUD, a very-low-income qualifying household with a family of four would have an annual income of up to $71,750. And low-income for a family of four would have an annual income of up to $114,800.

Why don’t we just reject the changes in zoning and battle the State? What is the worst they can do to the City of Yorba Linda?2023-10-26T15:22:51-07:00

There are diverse views on the battle to maintain local control, but the general trend is that State mandates preempt local control and the State politics on this are trending toward more State control. Under current law and threats made by the State, here are a few likely outcomes if we fail to adopt a Certified Housing Element.

  1. Builder’s Remedy. Builder’s Remedy allows a builder to take any residential property in a city and, if they commit to a certain percentage of affordable units, can build high density on that land and the city will have little to no authority on the design or amount of density of that development. As an example of this threat, see this article about a developer who proposed a swath of tall apartment towers directly adjacent to single family residences in Santa Monica. There also are a growing number of Builder’s Remedy projects occurring in Orange County cities, including the cities of Orange and La Habra.  
  2. Elimination of Grants and other State Funds. The City applies for and receives grant funds from the State of California and other regional governments. If the City does not have a Certified Housing Element, the City can be prevented from receiving State grants such as SB 1 funding that helps pay for local streets or funding that is used by Yorba Linda to contribute to our regional homeless solutions. It would have a significant impact on the City’s operating budget. Yes, it is unfair that Yorba Linda residents pay taxes to the State, then have those taxes held back from the City to benefit taxpayers who paid them; but, at this time, that is State policy.
  3. State Moratorium on Permits. The State of California can literally take over permitting in the City and place a moratorium on all construction permits until the City is in compliance with State law.
What is a Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA)? What is Yorba Linda’s allocated number?2023-10-26T15:19:08-07:00

RHNA is a State-mandated process quantifying the need for housing in each city and county throughout the State. The RHNA process assigns a total number of housing units that each local government must plan for with its land use policies and outlines the general price points that the housing should seek to target. The RHNA Housing Allocation for Yorba Linda is 2,415 units for the 6th Cycle (2021-29) meaning the City must devise a plan and related zoning to allow for the potential development of 2,415 housing units in the City to be built by 2029.

What is the City’s role in making sure Yorba Linda fulfills its Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) number?2023-10-26T15:18:29-07:00

Importantly, the City does not build housing. The market and market influences, such as certain subsidies, the macroeconomy, interest rates and more determine what housing gets built. The City’s role is to create zoning that would theoretically allow that number of housing units to be built over the RHNA period, in this case, 2021 to 2029.

What is the Measure B, aka Right-to-Vote Amendment (RTVA), and why does it matter during a Housing Element update?2023-10-26T15:17:25-07:00

Enacted in 2006, Measure B, or the Right-To-Vote Amendment (RTVA), is a citizen-sponsored, voter-approved initiative, incorporated within the City’s Municipal Code. It requires citywide elections for the approval of certain “Major Amendments” to the City’s Planning Policy Documents, including the Housing Element. Although this measure highlights the value of community participation, it creates an additional important step for the community to navigate to adopt a compliant Housing Element.

Can the City or voters reject State-mandates and just not have a housing element?2023-10-26T15:16:32-07:00

California state housing policy and RHNA allocation are all subjects of discussion and policy debate for their merits and actual impact on the housing market. However, the City must develop a compliant Housing Element and related zoning or it will face the loss of local control for land use, risk substantial fines, lose access to State grant funds, become vulnerable to lawsuits from developers and affordable housing advocates and open the gates to ‘Builder’s Remedy’ applications that completely bypass many local land use rules. Builder’s Remebedy promises the loss of City authority to review and limit developments.

Can the City simply pay fines instead of having a Certified Housing Element?2023-09-28T17:33:09-07:00

No, paying fines is not an “opt-out” provision. It’s only one of the penalties imposed on jurisdictions that do not have a Certified Housing Element.

Will any potential ballot measures or amendments eliminate the need for a housing element?2023-09-28T17:35:00-07:00

Current drafts of proposed amendments do not contain provisions that would overturn or that would directly revise the RHNA for this cycle.

How is the Resident-Driven Housing Element different from the city’s previous Housing Element draft that was turned down by voters in 2022?2023-09-28T17:35:25-07:00

This plan was revised based on significantly more in-depth public feedback and took into consideration changes in the retail/business environment, along with the changing public perspective on housing density in the Savi Ranch area.

How is the current RHNA Cycle different from previous ones?2023-10-26T15:13:39-07:00

The 6th Cycle introduced several new demographic and housing factors that weren’t present in previous cycles, including the consideration of “existing housing need” due to overcrowded housing conditions and cost-burdened households.

The RHNA number for the SoCal area is also much higher this cycle than previous cycles.

Are there monetary penalties for not having a Certified Housing Element?2023-09-28T17:36:11-07:00

The State can subject a city to fines of up to $600,000/month, equating to $7.2 million/year.

Are the new developments being concentrated in one area, creating a “low-income housing zone”?2023-10-26T15:11:45-07:00

The Working Group considered fairness between various parts of the city and deemed Savi Ranch an appropriate location to add housing units. These decisions were influenced by development opportunities, concerns over fire evacuation, and feedback from residents. It is also important to note that the housing proposed in the Savi Ranch area would allow for a variety of housing levels from market rate to lower income housing.

Is there a trend of legal actions favoring cities over Housing Elements?2023-09-28T17:36:49-07:00

Several cities have filed legal action against the State related to their Housing Elements and recent housing legislation, but these cases are rarely resolved in favor of cities.

Will traffic increase with the construction of new homes at Savi Ranch?2023-10-26T15:09:50-07:00

The most recent traffic analysis conducted in 2023 indicates that Savi Ranch can accommodate up to 850 additional housing units before reaching an unacceptable level of traffic. The proposed housing plan allows for approximately 800 new units; however, those new housing units (if constructed) would likely replace existing retail space and its associated traffic.

How is “lower income housing” defined?2023-10-26T15:09:25-07:00

“Lower income housing” represents housing that is for individuals and families making up to 120% of the area median income (AMI) for a household is split into three categories: moderate, low, and very low. The Orange County AMI is currently $127,800. 

Moderate income in Orange County would be households making between 80%-120% of AMI, which would be between $114,800-$153,350 for a household of four. Low income would be households making between 50%-80% of AMI and very low income would be households making between 30-50% of AMI.

It is important to note that RHNA also requires jurisdictions to provide for market rate (or above moderate income) housing opportunities. In fact, approximately 1/3 of the City’s RHNA requirement is for market rate housing.

Does the Yorba Linda Right-to-Vote (Measure B) override other laws when it comes to rezoning? Why doesn’t it protect Yorba Linda from Builder’s Remedy?2023-10-26T15:08:37-07:00

State law takes precedence over local laws and ordinances.

Measure B only applies to certain City actions to approve or amend City land use documents.  In contrast, the Builder’s Remedy does not require any approval or amendment of City land use documents and indeed prevents a City from using City zoning or General Plan requirements to prevent certain types of affordable housing projects.  Therefore, Measure B is inapplicable to Builder’s Remedy projects.

What happens if the revised Housing Element fails or succeeds on the November 2024 ballot?2023-10-26T15:26:52-07:00

If it fails, the State would likely decertify Yorba Linda’s Housing Element, leading to potential lawsuits and the threat of Builder’s Remedy. If it succeeds, property owners can proceed with redevelopment according to the zoning code.

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