The RHNA process refers to the first two steps (Determination and Allocation) of a multi-step process that California governments utilize to plan for housing needs in each region of the state.

Since 1969, California has required that all local governments (cities and counties) adequately plan to meet the housing needs of everyone in the community. This process starts with the state determining how much housing at a variety of affordability levels is needed for each region in the state, and then regional governments develop a methodology to allocate that housing need to local governments. California’s local governments then adopt housing plans (called housing elements) as part of their “general plan” (also required by the state) to show how the jurisdiction will meet local housing needs.

"Current Housing Planning Process"

Determination: Calculating the Housing Need in Each Region

HCD is responsible for determining the regional housing need for each region’s planning body known as a “council of governments” (COG), with input from the Department of Finance (DOF). HCD and the COG consult and compare data related to demographic trends and housing conditions in the region. After this consultation, HCD issues the final regional housing need number for the region, which is broken out by income categories. The final housing need determination must be issued at least two years before the next Housing Element due date.

The determination is required to account for both the existing and projected housing need in each region. Accordingly, in addition to considering DOF data on future population and household growth, HCD also assesses whether additional housing is needed to serve the existing population. For instance, HCD considers data on overcrowding, cost burden, vacancy rates, and jobs-housing imbalances when determining the regional housing need. HCD is also required to consider whether units have recently been lost due to a state of emergency declared by the Governor.

Allocation: Distributing the Need to Cities and Counties

Once HCD has issued the region’s housing need determination figure (the amount of housing that must be planned for), the COG is responsible for allocating the housing need amongst all of the jurisdictions (cities/counties) within that region. The COG must develop a methodology for allocating the regional housing need and submit the methodology to HCD for review. After the methodology is adopted by the COG, they must develop a Regional Housing Need Allocation Plan (RHNA Plan). The RHNA Plan must be adopted by the COG at least one year before the next Housing Element due date. Learn more: Building Blocks: A Comprehensive Housing-Element Guide.

Statute requires that the COG develop a RHNA allocation methodology that furthers five statutory objectives (Gov. Code Section 65584(d)). Overall, the statutory objectives encourage the development of a RHNA allocation plan that promotes more economically and racially integrated communities by allocating housing to high-resource, job-rich areas, while also meeting the state’s greenhouse gas reduction goals by encouraging infill development and the protection of environmental resources. Statute also lays out 13 factors that COGs are allowed to consider when creating the allocation methodology, as well as three criteria that cannot be considered. HCD is charged with developing the RHNA Plan for 20 predominantly rural counties across the state that do not have a COG.

California’s Housing Future 2040: The Next Regional Housing Needs Allocation

AB 101 (2019) directs HCD, in collaboration with OPR and after engaging in stakeholder participation, to develop recommendations related to the RHNA process and methodology. Upon completion of this California's Housing Future 2040 stakeholder engagement initiative, HCD will compile its findings and recommendations, and will submit a report to the Legislature by December 31, 2023.

HCD plans to conduct this stakeholder engagement initiative in the Spring of 2023, which will consist of several opportunities for stakeholder input. HCD is undertaking the CA’s Housing Future 2040 initiative centering the following guiding principles:

  • Ensure RHNA is a fair, transparent, objective, and streamlined process for identifying housing need.
    • Fair in terms of advancing equity, racial justice and inclusion, and environmental justice in a manner that ensures all jurisdictions plan for their fair share of the region’s housing need.
    • Transparent in terms of open and accessible public participation, proactive engagement, and making materials available online.
    • Objective in terms of maintaining a data-driven process.
    • Streamlined in terms of ensuring a logical flow of steps with the most efficient process available to accomplish meaningful outcomes.
  • Strategically plan for the needs of households of all income levels while promoting infill development, the protection of natural resources, and efficient development patterns.
  • Account for future climate risk with the goal of ensuring communities and vulnerable populations are not unduly exposed to climate risks, including but not limited to drought, flooding, sea level rise, and wildfire.
  • Encourage increased development to substantially address California’s housing shortage and affordability issues.
  • Improve compliance and outcomes through incentives and enforcement.
  • Enhance and protect RHNA’s role in Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing so that all cities plan for their fair share of growth and future planning does not further entrench segregated living patterns.

Below you will find information on upcoming stakeholder engagement events and materials created during this CA’s Housing Future 2040: The Next RHNA initiative. This webpage will be updated as more information becomes available.

Kick-Off Webinar

HCD held a virtual kick-off webinar on Thursday March 9, 2023, giving an overview of the CA’s Housing Future 2040: The Next RHNA initiative and the ways in which the public can engage with CA’s Housing Future 2040. The webinar covered how the current RHNA process works, the scope of CA’s Housing Future 2040, and the topics where HCD is looking for input.


In order to inform HCD’s recommendations for improving the RHNA process and methodology, HCD is conducting a public survey, alongside other engagement strategies, to receive input and ideas from stakeholders. This survey is organized by topic areas identified as priorities and should take approximately 10-15 minutes to complete. After the survey closes, HCD will summarize and analyze the survey responses. HCD will utilize the survey responses to inform HCD’s recommendations for improving the RHNA process and methodology but will not respond to each survey response.

The amount of housing each region must plan to accommodate. 

Other regions not covered above (6th Cycle)

The amount of housing each region must plan to accommodate.

Other regions not covered above (5th Cycle): 2014-2019

HCD, in collaboration with California’s various Councils of Governments (COGs), developed pre-approved, data packages for the 5th and 6th 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.

6th Cycle Data Package for Each Council of Governments

6th Cycle Data Package for Each Non–Council-of-Governments Counties

HCD values the findings of the California State Auditor’s report on the Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) process, which found HCD’s needs assessment methodology to be sound. The auditor also identified opportunities for HCD to further promote fairness, accuracy, and transparency in the RHNA. In response to the auditor’s findings, HCD committed to undertaking the following in a timely and comprehensive manner:

  • Improve review documentation and create procedures to further ensure data errors are eliminated.
  • Conduct research and public outreach to determine an equitable, fair, and transparent jobs/housing adjustment factor.
  • Ensure data on units lost during state of emergency is provided, verified, and applied in each determination.
  • Conduct research and public outreach to perform a formal analysis of healthy vacancy rates and historical trends to inform adjustments using the vacancy rate factor.
  • Ensure HCD’s RHNA determination letters describe, in detail, all factors required by GC 65584.01.

HCD has acted quickly to implement the auditor’s recommendations. HCD also committed to undertaking a variety of tasks associated with each recommendation, some of which have been completed and some of which are still in progress. These tasks are summarized below.

Recommendation 1 (QA/QC Data Review): To ensure that its needs assessments are accurate and do not contain unnecessary errors, by June 2022 HCD should institute a process to ensure its staff perform multiple reviews of data included in its assessments, including data that staff input and councils of governments submit.

  • Create checklist which documents the data submitted by the COG, prompts staff to confirm the accuracy of the data submitted, and documents how factors were considered.
  • Include data verification and confirmation checks in the RHNA data workbook.
  • Ensure multiple levels of review, from staff to management, of data inputs and review checklist to ensure completion of checklist and review materials.
  • Consider implementing new data gathering methods, such as utilizing application programming interfaces (API’s) which can reduce errors caused by copy/paste or other manual collection methods.

Recommendation 2 (Jobs Housing Factor and Units Lost): To demonstrate that its needs assessments are complete and address all relevant factors, by September 2022 HCD should establish a formal process to document its consideration of all factors required by state law in its needs assessments.

  • HCD will convene a public process to discuss and identify jobs-housing balance data sources, methodology, and recommended targets. This process shall include a panel of experts with relevant expertise in the field of jobs-housing imbalance, planning, and/or best practices, all as determined, identified, and selected by HCD.
  • To the extent HCD adopts a jobs-housing balance methodology and recommended targets, HCD will apply such targets or methodology to future determinations. HCD shall use reasonable and good faith efforts to ensure that any methodologies deployed are transparent and uniformly applied.
  • If and to the extent necessary and appropriate data is available and reliable, as determined by HCD, HCD will make written determinations on whether each region has a current and/or projected imbalance between jobs and housing.
  • If not provided, HCD will request employment projections from the COG to consider using in any jobs/housing adjustment factor.
  • If not provided, HCD will request that data from the COG related to units lost during a state of emergency be submitted to HCD. HCD will work with Department of Finance and other agencies to verify data submitted by the COG contains a complete accounting of all units lost during the state of emergency and will incorporate the adjustment factor into all determinations in a transparent and equitable manner.
  • To the extent HCD adopts a jobs-housing balance data source, methodology, and recommended targets, HCD will formally incorporate such jobs/housing methodology and recommended targets, along with explanatory notes regarding the same into the Regional Housing Need Determination letter template to be transmitted to the regional councils of government.

Recommendation 3 (Vacancy Rate): To ensure that it adequately supports the vacancy rate adjustments it makes to needs assessments, by February 2023 HCD should perform a formal analysis of healthy vacancy rates and historical trends to inform those adjustments.

  • HCD will conduct research into the academic or industry studies published regarding historical and current vacancy rates, and how they may be used to calculate an accurate vacancy rate to use for the RHNA. If such research is out-of-date or not available, HCD may consider commissioning a study on the topic.
  • HCD will consult with a panel of experts regarding the academic or industry studies available and determine how to best use the relevant information available to form a target adjustment factor to use in the RHNA.
  • HCD will consider both owner and renter vacancy rates going forward and may apply different targets for each based on the conclusions from the research and panel recommendations.

Recommendation 4 (Comparable Region Analysis): To ensure that it does not reduce its needs assessments based on inappropriate information provided by councils of governments, by June 2022 HCD should develop a formal process to review the appropriateness of councils of governments' proposed comparable regions, including identifying the criteria it will consider when reviewing councils of governments proposals. HCD should use this formal process and criteria to consistently evaluate the appropriateness of the proposals to ensure that they identify regions with healthy housing markets.

  • HCD will establish a formal set of criteria and factors that COGs may include in their comparable region analysis.
  • In considering acceptable factors, HCD will exclude factors that are either identical to or highly correlated with overcrowding and housing cost burden.
  • In establishing formal criteria and factors for comparable region analysis, HCD may consult with a panel of experts to get input on what factors are acceptable as measures of comparability but are not correlated with high rates of overcrowding or cost burden.