Reposted from March 2009

There are many factors involved in determining where to build housing. But, aside from the obvious ones like; location, weather, school, parks, shopping, transportation, etc., the State also plays a large role in the process.

The Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) is responsible for making long-term forecasts for population, housing, and employment for the nine-counties in the Bay Area. Every two years, ABAG produces updated growth projections. In their estimate by 2035 there will be an additional 2 million people in the Bay Area. Even if there was no migration to the area, because of births alone (in any given year 40-50,000 more people are born than die in the Bay Area), we will add over a million people. For better or worse, there are going to be a lot more of us in the future. The question to be asked is; where will we build the homes to meet the demands of the next generation?

In order to answer this question the State enacted law Government Code Section 65584. The law establishes a process for assigning the responsibility for housing production in California. This process is done every 7 years (the current planning period is 2007 – 2014) and starts with the department of Housing and Community Development (HCD). They determine the need for housing throughout the state and how much is needed in each region of the state. HCD assigns each regional government council (ABAG in our region) an anticipated regional housing need determination (RHND), which is often referred to as the “fair share housing allocation” for the region.

In step 2 ABAG, working with the 101 cities and 9 counties that it serves, develops a Regional Housing Need Plan (RHNP). The RHNP is the actual plan that allocates a “fair share” of the region’s projected housing needs to each city and county. These allocations are broken down by affordability types, including: above moderate, moderate, low and very low income housing. Each city and county in the plan will receive an allocation of the total number of housing units and affordability types that it must plan to accommodate within a 7 year time period.

The next is the step is the allocation of these numbers known as the Regional Housing Need Allocation (RHNA). The RHNA is the actual allocation for each city and county, as determined by the RHNP. Each city and county must plan to accommodate their individual RHNA within the specified 7 year time period.

The final process involves Oakley’s General plan. More specifically the Housing Element. Per state law, each city and county’s Housing Element must be updated to show how the RHNA allocation will be accommodated within the 7 year time period.

Oakley’s Housing Element is also up for its 5 year HCD review. State law requires the Housing Element be reviewed by HCD and that HCD provide its findings regarding compliance with law to each local agency. Each city is required to identify and to designate in its General Plan and zoning ordinance sufficient sites at sufficient densities to accommodate its RHNA. If HCD finds the plan lacking in any particular income group (above moderate, moderate, low and very low income housing) it will return and ask for corrections before certifying the Housing Element. The Housing Element must be updated and turned over to HCD before June 30, 2009.

Without a certified Housing Element a city is at risk of lawsuits from developers and housing advocates. It is also possible that the city would be ineligible to receive or apply for local transportation or state funding.

You may ask; if the State is mandating the number of houses a city must build, then shouldn’t the State play a greater role in improving the necessary infrastructure? The RHNA is not a mandate for construction of housing; however each jurisdiction is responsible for planning for their allocation. The State considers infrastructure deficiencies to be a temporary condition, and does not reduce the RHNA as a result.

About Kevin

Councilmember - City of Oakley, Manager of Mainframe Operations and Optimization – USS-POSCO INDUSTRIES, Co-Founder and Board Member - Friends of Oakley A Community Foundation, Commissioner - Contra Costa Transportation Authority, Board Member - Tri Delta Transit, Transplan, San Joaquin Joint Powers Authority and RD 2137, Advisory Board – Opportunity Junction
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