Housing Element Overview
The Housing Element is one of the nine required elements of the General Plan and the only element required to be approved (“certified”) by the State of California. The State Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) has the legal authority to review and certify housing elements.
The Housing Element includes an analysis of the following:
- Review of the existing 2015-2023 Housing Element
- Housing Needs Assessment
- Housing Resources & Opportunities
- Assessment of Fair Housing
- Housing Site Inventory
- Housing Constraints
- Housing Programs
With each Housing Element update, local governments adequately plan to meet their communities’ existing and projected housing needs, including their fair share of the Regional Housing Needs Allocation.
The Regional Housing Need Allocation (RHNA) process is the part of Housing Element Law used to determine how many new homes, and the affordability of those homes, each local government must plan for in its Housing Element. The State sets the total housing units needed in each region. For the Bay Area, which Sonoma County is a part of, the region must plan for 441,176 housing units, about half of which must be affordable to lower income households.
The Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) takes the total units determined by the State (441,176) and assigns a number of units to each jurisdiction. Through the Housing Element, the City of Sonoma is required to demonstrate a plan to accommodate the number of units assigned to the City. For the 2023-2031 planning period, the City of Sonoma is required to provide opportunities for 311 units.
Housing Element 101
Elemento de Vivienda 101
Safety Element Overview
In addition to the Housing Element, the City is also required to update the Public Health and Safety Element of the General Plan, which is designed to reduce the short-term and long-term potential threats to community health and safety, helps foster a resilient local economy and natural ecosystem. Cities and counties are required by State law to review their Safety Elements during preparation of the Housing Element Update to determine if updates are needed to respond to and incorporate the latest California State General Plan Guidelines for compliance with State law regarding climate change adaptation and resilience, wildfire mapping, mitigation, and evacuation routes.