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 eight elements: land use, transportation, conservation, noise, open space, safety, environmental justice, and housing.

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.

Housing Element Basics

  • A mandatory element of the General Plan​.
  • Updates required by State law on eight year “cycles.”
  • Currently preparing the 6th cycle Housing Element update (2023-2031)​.
  • The State reviews housing elements for compliance with State law. In order to access state funding, housing elements must be certified by the State.
What does a Housing Element do?
  • Provides an assessment of both current and future housing needs​
  • Identifies opportunities and constraints on housing production​
  • Establishes the City’s goals, policies, and programs to meet the community’s housing needs for the next 8 years
  • Updates City policies, programs, and regulations to reflect new State laws
Housing Element identifies strategies and programs that focus on:
  • Conserving and improving existing housing​
  • Maximizing housing opportunities throughout the community​
  • Assisting in the provision of affordable housing​
  • Removing governmental and other constraints to housing investment​
  • Promoting fair and equal housing opportunities

What is Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA)
  • The projection of the housing needs for all income levels in the county/city for the next eight years​
  • Prepared by the Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD)​
  • 6th cycle: units approved, permitted, or built Feb. 15, 2023 – Feb. 15, 2031
Housing Needs Assessment
  • Population Trends​
  • Household Income​
  • Special Needs​
  • Housing Characteristics and Conditions​
  • Cost of Housing​
  • Housing Constraints​
  • Housing Resources and Opportunities