Housing Element Update (2023-31)
Every jurisdiction has a General Plan that serves as the local government's "blueprint" for the future, prescribing policy goals and objectives to shape and guide the physical development of the local jurisdiction. It includes seven (7) mandatory elements: land use, transportation, conservation, noise, open space, safety, and housing. The state law mandating that housing be included as an element of each jurisdiction's general plan is known as "housing-element law," and the document is called a "Housing Element."
A Housing Element is how local jurisdictions plan to meet the housing needs of everyone in the community. Every eight (8) years, every city, town, and county must update their Housing Element and have it certified by the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD).
The Town of Los Altos Hills' current Housing Element is for the planning period 2015-2023, and we must update our Housing Element for the 2023-2031 planning period. The updated Housing Element is required to be reviewed by HCD and adopted by the City Council by January 2023House.
What Are the Components of a Housing Element?
The Housing Element typically includes:
1. Housing Needs Assessment: Examine demographic, employment, and housing trends and conditions that affect the community's housing needs.
2. Evaluation of Past Performance: Review the prior Housing Element to measure progress in implementing policies and programs.
3. Housing Sites Inventory: Identify locations of available sites for housing development or redevelopment to ensure that there is adequate capacity to address the Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA).
4. Community Outreach and Engagement: Implement a robust community outreach and engagement program, with a particular focus on outreach to traditionally underrepresented groups.
5. Constraints Analysis: Analyze and recommend remedies for existing and potential governmental and nongovernmental barriers to housing development.
6. Policies and Programs: Establish policies and programs to fulfill the identified housing needs
How is a jurisdiction's housing need determined?
The State of California determines the number of homes that are needed for the Bay Area, consistent with state law. The Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) then distributes a share to each local government in the nine (9) Bay Areas counties. Each jurisdiction is assigned a portion of the regional need at various income levels based on factors such as future population, access to jobs, and other factors. This assignment is known as the Regional Housing Need Allocation (RHNA) and is intended to promote the following objectives:
• Increase the housing supply and the mix of housing types in an equitable manner
• Promote infill development that encourages alternatives to solo driving and reduces greenhouse gas emissions
• Balance jobs and housing
• Discourage housing development patterns that segment communities
• Affirmatively further fair housing
Each jurisdiction must ensure there is enough land with appropriate zoning to accommodate its RHNA allocation in its Housing Element.
What is the Town of Los Altos Hills' RHNA allocation for the planning period 2023-31?
With a projected growth of over 441,000 households for the Bay Area, Los Altos Hills was assigned the housing need allocation included below.
Town of Los Altos Hill 2023-2031 RHNA Allocation
|Household Income-Level||Number of Housing Units|
|VERY LOW (<50% of Area Median Income)||125|
|LOW (50-80% of Area Median Income)||72|
|MODERATE (80-120% of Area Median Income)||82|
|ABOVE MODERATE (>120% of Area Median Income||210|
|TOTAL ALLOCATION||489 housing units*|
*Note: To ensure that sufficient capacity exists in the Housing Element to accommodate the RHNA throughout the planning period, HCD recommends a buffer in the Housing Element inventory of at least 15 to 30 percent more capacity than required, especially for capacity to accommodate the lower-income RHNA. Thus, when planning for housing units, we would need to add a buffer of at minimum 15%.
The tables below define affordability levels by county; these are the State Income Limits for 2021 by county as calculated by the state. Area Median Income in Santa Clara County is $151,300.
Income Limits: Santa Clara County
Household Income Limits: Santa Clara County 2021
Percent of median income
New Requirements for this Housing Element Update
Recent legislation resulted in the following key changes for this 6th cycle of RHNA and Housing Element updates:
- Higher allocations - There is a higher total regional housing need. HCD's identification of the region's total housing needs has changed to account for unmet existing need, rather than only projected housing needs. HCD now must consider overcrowded households, cost-burdened households (those paying more than 30% of their income for housing), and a target vacancy rate for a healthy housing market (with a minimum of 5%).
- Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) - Local Housing Elements must affirmatively further fair housing. According to HCD, achieving this objective includes preventing segregation and poverty concentration as well as increasing access to areas of opportunity. HCD has mapped Opportunity Areas and has developed guidance for jurisdictions about how to address affirmatively furthering fair housing in Housing Elements.
- Limits on Sites - Identifying Housing Element sites for affordable units will be more challenging. There are new limits on the extent to which jurisdictions can reuse sites included in previous Housing Elements and increased scrutiny of small, large, and non-vacant sites when these sites are proposed to accommodate units for very low- and low-income households.
- Safety and Environmental Justice Element - State law requires that the Safety Element of the General Plan be updated concurrently with the Housing Element. The Safety Element must address new wildfire, evacuation routes, and climate adaptation and resilience requirements in an integrated manner. When two or more general plan elements are updated, jurisdictions with disadvantaged communities must address Environmental Justice, either in a stand-alone element or as a cross-cutting topic across multiple elements.
Role of Community Input
A successful Housing Element is based on an inclusive process in which the community has the chance to participate and provide input. Government Code 65583(c)(7) requires: "The local government shall make a diligent effort to achieve public participation of all economic segments of the community in the development of the housing element, and the program shall describe this effort." Thus, community outreach will be an important part of the Housing Element Update.