Public Lands for Affordable Housing Development

One of the challenges in building new affordable homes is acquiring land suitable for housing. In 2019, Governor Newsom took several actions to make state and local public lands available for affordable housing development including:

  • An executive order to make excess state land available for affordable housing (Executive Order N-06-19)
  • Connecting affordable housing developers to local surplus land and strengthening enforcement of the Surplus Lands Act (AB 1486, Ting, 2019)
  • Requiring cities and counties to inventory and report surplus and excess local public lands to include in a statewide inventory (AB 1255, Robert Rivas, 2019)

Excess State Land for Affordable Housing

On January 15, 2019, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed Executive Order N-06-19 that ordered the California Department of General Services (DGS) and the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) to identify and prioritize excess state-owned property and aggressively pursue sustainable, innovative, cost-effective housing projects. Learn more.

Surplus Local Land for Affordable Housing

Assembly Bill 1486 (Ting, 2019) aims to connect developers who are interested in building more affordable homes on surplus local public land that is both available and suitable for housing development.

Local agencies (cities, counties, special districts, and certain other entities) must send notices about available, surplus local public land to all of the following:

  • HCD
  • Any local public entity within the jurisdiction where the surplus local land is located
  • Developers who have notified HCD of their interest in developing affordable housing on surplus local public land

Prior to agreeing to terms to dispose of surplus property, local agencies (cities, counties, and special districts) must send a description of notices of availability sent, and negotiations conducted, in addition to a copy of any restrictions to be recorded against the property, to HCD for review using HCD forms.

All Surplus Land Act (SLA) inquiries and documentation including surplus land dispositions, SLA exemptions, Notices of Availability (NOAs), requests for technical assistance (ex. draft resolution review, legal questions), and SLA complaints must be submitted to HCD via the Surplus Land Portal. Please click the link to create an account and submit your request. An account is not required to submit an SLA complaint.

Surplus Land Act Guidelines (PDF)

Materials to help local agencies answer common questions about the Surplus Land Act:

Materials for local agencies to use when surplus land properties are being made available for purchase or lease:

  • Sample Notice of Availability of Surplus Land Cover Letter (DOC): Sample cover letter for local agencies to use to notify the following entities that surplus property is being made available and provide direction to entities interested in purchasing or leasing the land:
    • HCD
    • Any local public entity (e.g., city, special district, tribes, etc.) within the jurisdiction where the surplus local land is located.
    • Developers who have notified HCD of their interest in developing affordable housing on surplus local land. View the list of developers (XLS) that have notified HCD of their interest in surplus local public lands (Updated: 02/01/2024).
  • Sample Notice of Availability of Surplus Land Property Description (XLS): Sample property description form to submit with the cover letter to provide detailed characteristics of the surplus land being made available for sale or lease. If this form is not used, local agencies must still submit these points of information when notifying entities to comply with Government Code section 54222(a).

Materials for local agencies to use when submitting a description of notices, negotiations, and recorded restrictions related to a proposed disposition (sale or lease):

  • Description of Disposition Template (XLS): When local agencies dispose of surplus land, they are required to submit a description of the disposition to HCD on this form prior to agreeing to terms for the disposition of surplus land. This form will provide the user a road map of what additional materials are required based on the nature of the disposition.
  • Sample Covenant/Restriction (DOC): When surplus land is disposed, it is often required to maintain certain levels of affordability. This sample covenant/restriction can be used to record affordability covenants pursuant to Government Code sections 54233 or 54233.5.

Notify HCD of your interest in receiving notices about surplus local public land — Complete HCD's Developer Interest - Local Agency Surplus Land survey. Entities interested in becoming certified as a Housing Sponsor can follow the directions on CalHFA's website.

View list of developers (XLS) that have notified HCD of their interest in surplus local public lands (Updated: 02/01/2024).

HCD has verified that the first 135 entities on this list have been certified by the California Housing Finance Agency (CalHFA) as “housing sponsors” as defined by Health and Safety Code section 50074. (Gov't Code § 54222(a)(1).) HCD has also verified that none of the entities on this list are currently in the process of being certified as “housing sponsors” by CalHFA.

View list of notices received (updated weekly)

Notices of Available Locally-Owned Surplus Land Map 

HCD accepts requests for review of potential violations from any party through our online Surplus Land Portal. Please note that if you are a private individual and do not give HCD express permission to disclose your identity, it is HCD’s practice to protect requestors’ identities from disclosure under the California Public Records Act (PRA) to the full extent authorized by the PRA. (Gov’t Code, § 7922.000; Cal. Const., Art. 1, § 1.) However:

  • Even though your identity may be withheld, the PRA may require HCD to disclose the substance of your request, including your written communications with HCD (with name redacted), after the request is closed, or if a reasonable amount of time has elapsed since the date of the request.
  • In some cases, it may be difficult or impossible to investigate an allegation without disclosing your identity. If that is a concern, please contact us at PublicLandsPortal@hcd.ca.gov to discuss the possibility of withdrawing your request if it later becomes necessary for maintaining your anonymity.
  • Notwithstanding the above, if you are writing on behalf of a business, nonprofit, state or local agency, or state or local government official, the PRA may require HCD to disclose your name, the organization, or public office you represent, and other identifying information. Although organizations and public figures enjoy fewer privacy protections than private individuals under state law, HCD recognizes the importance of whistleblower anonymity. If you represent an entity that risks negative consequences for reporting housing accountability issues, it is HCD’s practice to protect your identifying information from PRA disclosure unless specific circumstances create a greater public interest in disclosure. HCD evaluates these circumstances on a case-by-case basis. (Gov’t Code, § 7922.000.)
  • In rare cases, HCD may be compelled to disclose a requestor's identity during legal proceedings that may or may not include the requestor as a party.

If you have any concerns about confidentiality of your request, please contact us at PublicLandsPortal@hcd.ca.gov and a representative of HCD will be available to advise you.

To submit a request for assistance, visit HCD’s Surplus Land Portal.

Send U.S. postal mail requests to:

David Zisser, Assistant Deputy Director  
Department of Housing and Community Development  
Division of Housing Policy Development  
2020 W. El Camino Avenue, Suite 500  
Sacramento, CA 95833

HCD makes technical assistance and enforcement letters available to the public. A report of all letters issued is organized by jurisdiction, date, and subject matter (e.g., Housing Element Law, Fair Housing, Housing Accountability Act, Surplus Land Act, etc.).

Surplus Land Act Letters

For more information, please visit us our Surplus Land Portal.

In accordance with Assembly Bill 1255 (Robert Rivas, 2019), every California city and county is now required to have a central inventory of surplus and excess land and must report this inventory to HCD on the Housing Element Annual Progress Report (APR) form by April 1st of each year. To download and learn more about this form, please see the Annual Progress Reports. HCD, in turn, provides the information to DGS to include in a statewide map.

Get more information on these potential development opportunities. Access the map of local excess/surplus sites and housing element sites.

For further information, see the Housing and Local Land Development Opportunities Map Webinar (February 24, 2023) and presentation slides (PDF).