What’s a Housing Element and Why Does It Matter?

As our partners at YIMBY Law so fittingly say, “The Housing Element process is the most important California administrative process that you’ve never heard of.” This is why housing leaders from across the Monterey Bay region must come together and make a plan to support our respective jurisdictions in the production of clear, bold, and forward-thinking 6th Cycle Housing Elements. This is exactly what MBEP is working on with our regional partners. It has formed a Steering Committee made up of housing stakeholders from the region and to date has held two regional events to connect the various community stakeholders to this very important process.

So what is a Housing Element?  The Housing Element is a state-required document that is part of a jurisdiction’s General Plan. It establishes housing needs and objectives and sets clear goals that are the foundation for the jurisdiction’s housing strategy. The Housing Element contains policies and programs to address items such as maintaining and improving current housing, providing adequate housing sites, helping to provide affordable housing, eliminating constraints to housing development, promote fair housing opportunities, and zoning policy changes.

Housing Elements are critical for jurisdictions to be able to show how they plan to meet

local housing needs. The California Department of Housing and Community Development (commonly referred to as “HCD”) determines the number of new homes that a jurisdiction

needs to build and at what levels of affordability in order to meet these needs. This

process is called the Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA). Developers and jurisdictions receive state funding to build housing, and receipt of funds is often contingent on compliance with the Housing Element process. 

If written and implemented correctly, Housing Elements can guide housing development and land use in a way that housing champions dream about: higher density, transit-oriented development, smart zoning, infill housing, reduction of vehicle miles traveled, and the list goes on! 

MBEP will continue to work with the Steering Committee to plan another Housing Element event in the fall (stay tuned for that!) and will continue to work with regional partners and community members to continue to bring attention to the Housing Element process and galvanize participation in this most important California administrative process that everyone should know about.

Learn more on MBEP’s Housing Element page. Also, consider referencing HCD’s Housing Element page for a comprehensive guide, tools, and resources. HCD recently released a checklist to help jurisdictions through the Housing Element process.