Regional Housing Needs Allocation and Housing Elements

Since 1969, California has required that all local governments (cities and counties) adequately plan to meet the housing needs of everyone in the community. California’s local governments meet this requirement by adopting housing plans as part of their “general plan” (also required by the state). General plans serve as the local government’s "blueprint" for how the city and/or county will grow and develop and include seven elements: land use, transportation, conservation, noise, open space, safety, and housing. The law mandating that housing be included as an element of each jurisdiction’s general plan is known as “housing-element law.”

California’s housing-element law acknowledges that, in order for the private market to adequately address the housing needs and demand of Californians, local governments must adopt plans and regulatory systems that provide opportunities for (and do not unduly constrain), housing development. As a result, housing policy in California rests largely on the effective implementation of local general plans and, in particular, local housing elements.

Topics Covered

  • Why It Matters
  • The Role of HCD
  • Assessment: Calculating the Housing Need in Each Region
  • Allocation: Divvying up the Need Among Cities and Counties
  • Housing-Element Update Cycles

Why It Matters

Updating a jurisdiction’s housing element, while important to meeting one of the most basic needs of Californians, can be daunting, and a lot is at stake. Individuals and families are directly affected by each jurisdiction’s ability to plan for the housing needs of those who will live, work, and play in every community.

Those who build homes and apartments and help families become homeowners often rely on funding from state and federal housing programs administered by HCD and other state departments and agencies. In some cases, funding from state/federal housing programs can only be accessed if the jurisdiction has a compliant housing element. In other cases, a compliant housing element is not a requirement in order to apply for funding; however, those applying for funding will receive extra points on their application if they do have a compliant housing element (thereby increasing their chances in the competitive application process). View a list of the housing programs that require housing-element compliance (or award extra points for applicants who have compliant housing elements) in Incentives for Housing Element Compliance (PDF).

In order to create a housing plan (aka housing element) showing it could meet the local housing needs, a jurisdiction must first know how much housing it must plan for (and estimate how much will be needed at a variety of affordability levels in order to match the needs of the people who will live there). This is determined by a process called the regional housing needs assessment.

The Role of the California Department of Housing and Community Development

The California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) plays the critical role of reviewing every local government’s housing element to determine whether it complies with state law and then submits written findings back to each local government. HCD’s approval is required before a local government can adopt its housing element as part of its overall General Plan.

Jurisdictions can opt to update their housing elements every five years or every eight years. The option to use an eight-year schedule was created to better align with the schedule local governments (or COGs/MPOs) have to meet to update their Regional Transportation Plans (which are updated every four years).  now mandated to align with housing plans in Regional Sustainable Communities Strategies).

Assessment: Calculating the Housing Need in Each Region

HCD is responsible for determining the regional housing needs assessment (segmented by income levels) for each region’s planning body known as a “council of governments” (COG). HCD starts with demographic population information from the California Department of Finance and uses a formula to calculate a figure for each region/COG.

Each COG uses its own demographic figures to calculate what it believes the regional housing need is. Each COG then coordinates with HCD — taking into account factors not captured in the calculations — to arrive at a final figure.  This final figure is the regional housing needs assessment.

Allocation: Divvying up the need amongst cities and counties

Once HCD and the COG have agreed to the region’s assessment figure (the amount of housing that must be planned for), the COG takes over and is responsible for divvying up (allocating) the housing need amongst all of the jurisdictions (cities/counties) within that region. The COG does this in a Regional Housing Need Allocation Plan (RHNA Plan). Learn more in Building Blocks: A Comprehensive Housing-Element Guide.

Housing-Element Update Cycles

To date, there have been four previous housing element update “cycles.” California is now in its fifth “housing-element update cycle.”

Topics Covered

  • Assessments
  • Allocations

Assessments: The amount of housing needed in each region

HCD, in collaboration with California’s various Councils of Governments (COGs), developed pre-approved, regional housing needs assessments for the 5th cycle Housing Element updates. Because the data has been pre-approved (for COGs to use in preparing their Housing Element updates), it is not subject to further review by HCD.

Assessments for Each Council of Governments


Assessments for Each Non–Council-of-Governments Counties [
ß or link to list elsewhere]

Allocations: The amount of housing each local jurisdiction within a region must plan to accommodate

Other regions not covered above: 2014-2019

Since 1969, California has required that all local governments (cities and counties) adequately plan to meet the housing needs of everyone in the community. California’s local governments meet this requirement by adopting housing plans as part of their “general plan” (also required by the state). General plans serve as the local government’s "blueprint" for how the city and/or county will grow and develop and include seven elements: land use, transportation, conservation, noise, open space, safety, and housing. The law mandating that housing be included as an element of each jurisdiction’s general plan is known as “housing-element law.”

California’s housing-element law acknowledges that, in order for the private market to adequately address the housing needs and demand of Californians, local governments must adopt plans and regulatory systems that provide opportunities for (and do not unduly constrain), housing development. As a result, housing policy in California rests largely upon the effective implementation of local general plans and, in particular, local housing elements.

Housing-Element Process:

  • Update previous housing element.
  • Submit draft to the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) for review/approval.
  • Revise and adopt (or adopt without changes).
  • Submit adopted housing element to HCD.

Learn more in Building Blocks: Comprehensive Housing-Element Guide.

Update Schedule

Every Five Years vs. Every Eight Years

To strengthen the connection between housing and transportation planning, SB 375 made changes to better align the schedules for regional housing needs assessments and local government housing-element updates with schedules for adopting regional transportation plans (RTPs). The transportation planning requirements included in Government Code Section 65080 apply to 18 federally designated metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) in California covering 37 counties and representing approximately 98 percent of the statewide population. MPO schedules to adopt RTPs that determine regional housing needs assessments and housing-element due dates are differentiated as follows:
MPOs:

  • Non-Attainment Designation: “Non-attainment” MPOs adopt RTPs every four years. Regional housing needs assessments and housing-element schedules must be coordinated with every other RTP, requiring housing elements be updated every eight years and no later than 18 months after RTP adoption.
  • Attainment Designation: “Attainment” MPOs adopt RTPs every five years. SB 375 did not link or change regional housing needs assessment and housing-element update schedules based on RTP adoption date. Housing elements are required to be updated every five years and adopted by the due date specified in statute. However, attainment MPOs or regional transportation planning agencies may elect, to update RTPs on a four-year schedule that would change the housing-element schedule from five to eight years.

For jurisdictions on eight-year planning cycle: SB 375 specifies that if a local government on an eight-year planning cycle fails to adopt its housing element within 120 days of the statutory due date, the jurisdiction will be required to update its housing element every four years until it adopts at least two consecutive revisions by the applicable due dates. The SB 375 120-day deadline does not mandate that the adopted housing element has to be first (a) submitted to HCD, (b) reviewed by HCD, or (c) found in compliance by HCD within the 120-day timeframe.

Option to Change Next Housing Element Updates from a 5-Year to an 8-Year Schedule (PDF)

Status and Copies of All Housing Elements

Housing elements currently in review (PDF) — List of only those local governments whose housing elements are currently in review at HCD. (Last updated: 08.03.2016)

Copies of all housing elements (XLS) — Links to every jurisdiction’s most-current housing element (draft or adopted) as submitted to HCD for review. If the link to the housing element does not work, copy the link and paste it into your web browser. (Please note: To request earlier versions, contact HCD at 916.263.2911 or cahouse@hcd.ca.gov.)

Housing-element review letters sent to jurisdictions (XLS) — Links to review letters are updated in this spreadsheet within one week from the date the letter was sent to each jurisdiction. If the link to the review letter does not work, copy the link and paste it into your web browser. (Please note: To request review letters sent prior to November 2004, contact HCD at 916.263.2911.)

housing-element compliance report (PDF) — List of the current housing-element compliance status of all local governments in California.

Every effort is made to ensure that the information in these report is complete and up-to-date. Please contact HCD regarding concerns relating to the accuracy of any listing. Compliant housing elements are required in order to qualify for funding from many state and federal housing programs. If you have questions about your eligibility to apply for state or federal housing funds based on the compliance status of your jurisdiction's housing element, please contact HCD at 916.263.7421 or 916.263.7420.

Receive Updates

Sign up to receive a weekly listing of housing elements received by HCD, sign up by sending an email to cahouse@hcd.ca.gov (Please use the subject line: “HE submittal listserv.” Please also specify if you would like to receive a list of standard reviews, streamlined reviews, or both.)

Annual Progress Reports

Each jurisdiction (city council or board of supervisors) must prepare an annual progress report on the jurisdiction’s status and progress in implementing its housing element. (Government Code Section 65400.)

Each jurisdiction’s annual progress report must be submitted to HCD and the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research by April 1 of each year (covering the previous calendar year). If you have any questions regarding the following regulations or forms, please contact Melinda Coy at 916.263.7425 or mcoy@hcd.ca.gov.

Reports may be:

(1) Submitted online using the Online Annual Progress Reporting system

OR

(2) Mailed to:

California Department of Housing and Community Development
Division of Housing Policy Development
P.O. Box 952053
Sacramento, CA 94252-2053

AND

Governor’s Office of Planning and Research
P.O. Box 3044
Sacramento, CA 95812-3044

Annual Progress Reports (April 2015) — List of (and links to) all available annual progress reports. Please note: the posted reports, at this time, only include those received through U.S. mail and may not represent all the available annual progress reports. HCD will continue to add more annual progress reports over the next few months. If you do not see the report you are looking for, please contact HCD at 916.263.2911.

Updating a jurisdiction’s housing element, while important to meeting one of the most basic needs of Californians, can be daunting; and yet, the importance of housing elements to individuals and families, communities, and those who build homes and apartments is undeniable. So, HCD has created Building Blocks: A Comprehensive Housing-Element Guide to assist jurisdictions in creating comprehensive housing elements.

Building Blocks is your comprehensive housing-element guide.

In addition to the Building Blocks, the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) offers a broad and comprehensive range of technical assistance and resources to help jurisdictions prepare their housing elements, including:

HCD staff will also visit communities and help jurisdictions identify resources to develop and implement their housing elements.