Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA)
Last Updated 5/6/2010

The element shall contain an analysis of population and employment trends and documentation of projections and quantification of the locality’s existing and projected housing needs for all income levels. These projected needs shall include the locality’s share of the regional housing need in accordance with Section 65584 (Government Code Section 65583(a)(1)).

HCD is required to allocate the region’s share of the statewide housing need to Councils of Governments (COG) based on Department of Finance population projections and regional population forecasts used in preparing regional transportation plans. The COG develops a Regional Housing Need Allocation Plan (RHNA-Plan) allocating the region’s share of the statewide need to cities and counties within the region. The RHNA-Plan should promote the following objectives:

  • increase the housing supply and the mix of housing types, tenure and affordability in all cities and counties within the region in an equitable manner;
  • promote infill development and socioeconomic equity, the protection of environmental and agricultural resources, and the encouragement of efficient development patterns; and
  • promote an improved intraregional relationship between jobs and housing.

Housing element law recognizes the most critical decisions regarding housing development occur at the local level within the context of the periodically updated general plan. The RHNA-Plan component of the general plan requires local governments to balance the need for growth, including the need for additional housing, against other competing local interests. The RHNA-Plan process of housing element law promotes the state’s interest in encouraging open markets and providing opportunities for the private sector to address the State’s housing demand, while leaving the ultimate decision about how and where to plan for growth at the regional and local levels. The process maintains local control over where and what type of development should occur in local communities while providing the opportunity for the private sector to meet market demand. While land-use planning is fundamentally a local issue, the availability of housing is a matter of statewide importance. The RHNA-Plan process requires local governments to be accountable for ensuring that projected housing needs can be accommodated and provides a benchmark for evaluating the adequacy of local zoning and regulatory actions to ensure each local government is providing sufficient appropriately designated land and opportunities for housing development to address population growth and job generation.

Requisite Analysis

Regional Housing Needs Assessment

Housing element law requires a quantification of each jurisdiction’s share of the regional housing need as established in the RHNA-Plan prepared by the COG.

The Regional Housing Need Assessment (RHNA) is a minimum projection of additional housing units needed to accommodate projected household growth of all income levels by the end of the housing element’s statutory planning period. Each locality’s RHNA is distributed among four income categories to address the required provision for planning for all income levels. The distributed RHNA should be addressed in the housing element as follows:

Regional Housing Need Allocation
Income Category New Construction Need
Very Low (0-50% of AMI)  
Low (51-80% of AMI)  
Moderate (81-120% of AMI)  
Above Moderate (over 120% of AMI)  

Jurisdiction RHNA Credit for New Housing Units Since Start Date of RHNA Projection Period

The jurisdiction authorized to permit a particular residential development may take RHNA credit for new units approved, permitted, and/or built since the start date of the RHNA projection period. Information on the RHNA projection period for each region can be found at

A jurisdiction may take RHNA credit for units built on sites controlled by an exempt State, Federal, or Tribal Nation entity (e.g. College/University, Military, recognized Tribe) when the local government is the appropriate jurisdiction to report the new units to State Department of Finance when annually completing DOF’s housing unit survey. (See section: “Inventory of Land Suitable for Residential Development” under Site Suitability

To credit units affordable to very-low, low-, and moderate-income households toward the RHNA, a jurisdiction must demonstrate the units are affordable based on at least one of the following:

  • subsidies, financing or other mechanisms that ensure affordability (e.g., MHP, HOME, or LIHTC financed projects, inclusionary units or RDA requirements);
  • actual rents; and
  • actual sales prices.

Densities of housing developments do not describe affordability for the purposes of crediting units against the jurisdiction’s RHNA. For projects approved but not yet built, the jurisdiction must demonstrate the units can be built within the remaining planning period and demonstrate affordability to very low- or low-income households as follows:

Units Approved, Permitted, And/Or Built
Project Name Status
Total Units Units by Income Level Methodology of Affordability Determination
(1) Sales price
(2) Rent price
(3) Type of Subsidy

Remaining Need based on Units Built/Under Construction
Income Category A B A-B
New Construction Need Units Built, Under Construction or Approved Remaining Need
Very Low (0-50% of AMI)      
Low (51-80% of AMI)      
Moderate (81-120% of AMI)      
Above Moderate (over 120% of AMI)      

Sample Analyses