You can make a difference in your community by helping your city create a plan to build affordable homes, protect the homes of low-income people, help end homelessness, and deal with other housing issues that affect your entire community. The State of California requires its cities (and unincorporated areas) to update their plan for housing development and involve the whole community in the process of updating their plan.
What is the Housing Element?
Under Government Code Section 65588, California requires its cities to plan for their present and future housing needs by updating what is called the Housing Element. The Housing Element is part of the city’s general plan, which is a seven-part developing plan. Generally, in Southern California, the Housing Element must be updated every eight years, although some are updated on a different cycle. In every cycle, a city is allocated a housing need, which is a target number of homes for all household income levels. A city must start by evaluating the needs and constraints of the community, and it must adopt a Housing Element with a specific plan to address the target number of homes, their local needs, and the barriers to those needs. The plan should set aside enough land for developers to build specific types of properties as needed. This includes housing for families of all income levels. The plan must also include a specific action for special housing needs, including, but not limited to: housing for people with disabilities, the elderly, farmworkers, female-headed households, and emergency shelters for homeless people. Each city must submit their draft Housing Element to the Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) for review and approval. HCD is the state agency that reviews Housing Elements and determines their compliance with state law.
Why should you get involved in the Housing Element process?
State law requires that cities include input from community members of all socioeconomic backgrounds. Gov. Code § 65583(c)(8). Participating in the creation of the Housing Element is a chance to help shape the housing developments in your own community. Developers are often involved in the creation of a Housing Element, and you should be as well. Your opinion is important to the development of a housing plan because you understand the needs of your own community. Your input can help reduce the homelessness crisis in your community. You can help protect affordable housing for lower-income people and diversify your community. You can help take care of vulnerable populations such as the elderly or people with disabilities. If a city does not have a specific plan in place to take care of the vulnerable members of their community, then it is far less likely that housing for these groups of people will ever be built. The opinions of persons of different socioeconomic backgrounds ensures that the entire community’s hopes and dreams for their city are represented.
How to get involved in the Housing Element process?
Public participation is the process required by state law to involve the community members in the development of the Housing Element. These are some of the many ways to get involved during the public participation process of the Housing Element.
Learn more about housing element law by contacting your local legal aid office or by visiting the Department of Housing and Community Development’s website at https://www.hcd.ca.gov/ where you will find information about how housing element law can help shape your community.
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Staff Attorney, Systemic Impact Litigation
Inland Counties Legal Services, Inc.