What is the Housing Element?
The housing element is a component of San Dimas’ General Plan. The general plan serves as a blueprint for the future of a city, prescribing policy goals that 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. 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 mandatory review by a State agency, the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD).
The goals of a Housing Element and Regional Housing Needs Plan are to:
- Increase the housing supply and the mix of housing types in an equitable manner;
- Promote infill development and socio-economic equity; and
- Promote an improved intraregional relationship between jobs and housing.
Housing Element law requires local governments to adequately plan to meet their existing and projected housing needs, including their share of the regional housing need. Housing Element law is the State’s primary market-based strategy to increase housing supply, affordability, and choice. In order for the private sector to adequately address housing needs and demand, local governments must adopt land use plans and a regulatory environment that provides opportunities for housing development.
What does the Housing Element contain?
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.
What is the Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA)?
The RHNA is an allocation of the State’s projected housing needs split among the various regions and cities of California. The Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) is given a number of housing units that it must accommodate by HCD. For this RHNA cycle, the state has given SCAG an allocation of 1,341,827 new housing units. SCAG then divides the allocation and divides it among all the cities in the region. San Dimas has been allocated 1,245 new housing units through this process. The number of units is divided among the following income categories.
|Income Level||Percent of Area Median Income (AMI)||Units||Percent of Total|
|Very Low||<50% of AMI||382||30.7%|
|Low||50-80% of AMI||219||17.6%|
|Moderate||80-120% of AMI||206||16.5%|
|Above Moderate||>120% of AMI||438||35.2%|
Is San Dimas required to make sure that all of these units are built?
The RHNA allocation is not a mandate that the City ensure a certain number of units are built. The City cannot force developers to build units. The City must only show that there is enough land zoned at densities which would allow for the development of the RHNA allocation. The City must also show that its zoning codes and requirements do not unduly constrain the development of housing.
What is the Housing Inventory?
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 no housing component during the period that the Housing Element covers, the City will be required to replace that site with another to ensure that the inventory’s capacity is maintained.
What happens if the City does not complete the Housing Element update, or if the State fails to Certify the Housing Element?
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 it remains in violation.
What role does the community play in the Housing Element update?
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 community outreach meetings and community representation on the City of San Dimas Housing Element Subcommittee.
For more information, please visit the following sites:
California Department of Housing and Community Development, Regional Housing Needs Allocation and Housing Elements –
Southern California Association of Governments –
San Dimas’ 2014-2021Housing Element –