Since 1969, Housing Elements have been mandatory portions of local general plans in California because providing housing for all Californians is considered by the state legislature to be of vital statewide importance. A Housing Element provides an analysis of a community’s housing needs for all income levels, and strategies to respond to provide for those housing needs. It is a key part of the City’s overall General Plan.
State Law establishes that each city accommodates its fair share of affordable housing as an approach to distributing housing needs throughout the state. State Housing Element law also recognizes that in order for the private sector to address housing needs and demand, local governments must adopt land-use plans and implement regulations that provide opportunities for, and do not unduly constrain, housing development by the private sector.
Rules regarding Housing Elements are found in the California Government Code Sections 65580-65589. Unlike the other mandatory general plan elements, the housing element is required to be updated every five years. It is also subject to detailed statutory requirements and mandatory review and approval by a State agency — HCD (Department of Housing and Community Development).
According to State law, the Housing Element must:
- Provide goals, policies, quantified objectives and scheduled programs to preserve, improve and develop housing
- Identify and analyze existing and projected housing needs for all economic segments of the community
- Identify adequate sites that are zoned and available within the 7-year housing cycle to meet the city’s fair share of regional housing needs at all income levels
- Be certified (approved) by the State Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) as complying with state law
- Be internally consistent with other parts of the General Plan (and meeting this requirement is critical to having a legally adequate General Plan)