What is a Housing Element?

March 11, 2022

Since 1969, the California State Regional Housing Needs Allocation identifies a community’s housing needs at all income levels as an approach to distributing housing needs throughout the state.

Local governments must adopt land-use plans and implementing regulations that provide opportunities for, and do not unduly constrain, housing development by the private sector.

The Housing Element is the countywide plan that deals with identifying sites for the state mandated numbers for housing development. Marin and its towns must plan for more than 14,200 new units within the next eight years, of which roughly half must be affordable and around a quarter must be in unincorporated areas. Planning for those units does not mean developing them; rather, the county must demonstrate a capacity for them by proactively rezoning land. County planners must approve projects that are consistent with the Housing Element as long as they don’t pose a threat to public safety or exceed the state’s goals.

The deadline to update Housing Elements for the San Francisco Bay Area region is January 1, 2023.

What Happens If a Jurisdiction Does Not Adopt a Housing Element or the Element Does Not Comply with State Law?

If the State determines that a Housing Element fails to substantially comply, there are potentially serious consequences which include:

Limited access to State Funding.  

Lawsuits: Developers and advocates may sue jurisdictions if their Housing Element is not compliant with State Law. Recent Bay Area cities that were successfully sued include Corte Madera, Pittsburg, Pleasanton, Alameda, Benicia, Fremont, Rohnert Park, Berkeley, Napa County, and Santa Rosa.

There are several potential consequences of being sued, including:

Mandatory compliance: The court may order the community to bring the Element into compliance within 120 days.

Suspension of local control on building matters: The court may suspend the locality’s authority to issue building permits or grant zoning changes, variances, or subdivision map approvals.

Court approval of housing developments: The court may step in and approve housing projects, including large projects that may not be wanted by the local community.

Fees: If a jurisdiction faces a court action stemming from its lack of compliance and either loses or settles the case, it often must pay substantial attorney fees to the plaintiff’s attorneys in addition to the fees paid to its own attorneys. These fees can easily exceed $100,000.

We believe that ADUs are the perfect solution to many of the Housing Element requirements-they are a mutual benefit to homeowners and renters, place more housing within our communities and by nature are affordable and environmentally beneficial.

The VADU Benefit:
We work only for the property owner--helping enhance the value of their properties and realize financial/personal goals.

We manage the conversion of underperforming commercial spaces to extremely valuable residential housing.

We know the law, municipalities, architects and builders to quickly and cost-effectively create thriving multi-family properties to rent or sell or an ADU on/in your home.

We will give you a free assessment on the potential value of your property.

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