Yucaipa Housing Element
The General Plan serves as a blueprint for the future of the city, and includes goals and policies intended to shape and guide its development. State law requires that each and every city adopt a General Plan containing at least seven elements, including the “Housing Element,” which provides the plan and programs that focus on conserving and improving existing affordable housing; providing adequate housing sites for all income levels; assisting in the development of affordable housing; removing constraints to housing development; and promoting equal housing opportunities.
Unlike other General Plan elements, the Housing Element is required by law to be updated every 8 years and is subject to detailed statutory requirements and also a mandatory review by the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD). The General Plan’s Housing Element is the City of Yucaipa’s official housing plan and serves as the chief policy document on housing-related issues.
Each year, the City must also prepare an annual progress report showing its efforts towards meeting the goals of the Housing Element, including a counting of all of the housing projects that were proposed and/or approved, and the number of housing units that were built.
Q & A - Housing Element
The Housing Element contains information on the housing needs of the community, including the needs of lower-income households, the homeless, people with disabilities, and seniors. The majority of these needs are determined through the Regional Housing Needs Assessment (or RHNA, pronounced RHEE-NAH, see below). The Housing Element also establishes the goals, objectives, and policies that are the foundation of the City’s housing strategy. Lastly, it contains an inventory of potential development sites within the city that could accommodate the RHNA allocation of affordable housing which the City has been assigned.
The RHNA is an allocation of the State’s projected housing needs split among the various regions and cities of California. Pursuant to Section 65588 of the California Government Code, the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) is given a number of housing units that it must accommodate by HCD. For the upcoming 8-year RHNA cycle, the state has given SCAG an allocation of 1,341,827 new housing units. To ensure that cities do not “overlook” their local responsibilities to provide housing opportunities for all income levels, each city is assigned from SCAG a “fair share” number of housing units that it needs to be accommodated in the next housing cycle. Throughout the RHNA process, the City has voiced its concerns on the overall regional allocation and has also voiced its concerns to SCAG to ensure that its methodology does not disproportionally allocate housing units to the Inland Empire region.
Yucaipa has been allocated 2,866 new housing units through this process. The number of units is divided among the following income categories.
|Very-low income||Low Income||Moderate income||Above-moderate income|
The RHNA allocation is not a mandate that the City ensure a certain number of units are built. In addition, the City cannot force developers to build units nor is the City required to build the units themselves. However, the City must demonstrate that there is enough land zoned at the appropriate densities that would support the residential development needed meet the RHNA allocation. A variety of recent state laws have resulted in significantly more stringent requirements for the efforts to ensure that land is zoned to facilitate the required housing sites identified in the Housing Element. This includes limitations on what can be considered a feasible site and new more rigorous requirements for the analysis of identify potential housing sites. These changes have been required by the state as an effort to avoid creating ‘paper’ designated affordable housing sites that feature size and development limitations which may make them infeasible to complete, but these requirements also constrains the number of sites that would have otherwise been considered in prior Housing Elements. The City must also show that its Development Code and requirements, or other policies do not unduly constrain the development of housing.
As part of the Housing Element process, the City generates a list of properties within the City that have the ability to be developed with the number of units that have been allocated to the City. This list becomes a part of the Housing Element. Sites which are listed in the Housing Inventory do not have to be used solely for housing. The City is required only to show that sites could be used for housing, but the actual use of the sites is always a decision made by the owners and developers. However, if a site in the Housing Inventory is developed with less units or at a higher income range than anticipated in the Housing Element, “No Net Loss” provisions under state law dictate that the City is required to replace that site with another to ensure that the inventory’s capacity is maintained.
If HCD determines that a jurisdiction’s Housing Element fails to substantially comply with the State’s Housing Element Law, there are serious consequences that extend beyond the realm of residential land use planning. Non-compliance can result in the following consequences:
- RHNA assignment that is not accommodated in one housing cycle will be rolled over to the next housing cycle, increasing the number of units and the potential land a city is required to designate for multi-family housing during the next Housing Element Update cycle.
- A city would become vulnerable to lawsuits for noncompliance, including from the State of California.
- A city would risk the loss of transportation funding and become ineligible for a number of state and federal grants.
- A city will be required to update the housing element every 4 years instead of every 8 years.
If the Attorney General files a lawsuit for a violation related to housing element compliance and the jurisdiction does not bring its housing element into compliance after seeking remedies, the jurisdiction can be fined up to $100,000 per month until the violation is corrected.
Local government must make a concerted effort to achieve public participation in the Housing Element process, gaining input from people of all socioeconomic groups within the community. Public participation in the process is key to the implementation of the Housing Element and will:
- Assist in the development of the Housing Element;
- Identify key community concerns; and
- Ensure that community voices are heard.
Public participation will be obtained through surveys and through study sessions with the City Council. At the end of the day, the Housing Element is a tool to help encourage the housing needed for the current and future residents of the City.
California Department of Housing and Community Development, Regional Housing Needs Allocation and Housing Elements –
Southern California Association of Governments –