What is a Housing Element?
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.
Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA)
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.
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.
Measure B (Right-to-Vote Amendment) & Housing Element Updates
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?
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.
More on Housing
The Orange County Council of Governments (OCCOG) in coordination with the Regional Early Action Planning Grant Program (REAP) has provided some videos to help the public learn about housing-related topics.