Communities across the nation are struggling with housing shortages, with those problems amplified by home prices that continue to increase and a specific shortage of affordable housing keeping many potential homeowners stuck renting. California is certainly not immune to the problem, and has seen its own housing shortages exacerbated by factors such as last year’s widespread and damaging wildfires. But based on data recently released by the state, very few California municipalities are hitting state-mandated goals for expanding housing availability.
According to the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD), only 13 cities (2.4 percent of the total) met their full goals last year. Or, put another way, 97.6 percent of cities did not meet their full goals. Those goals are mandated by California’s Regional Housing Needs Allocation and Housing Elements (RHNA) rules, which were implemented in 1969 and require “that all local governments (cities and counties) adequately plan to meet the housing needs of everyone in the community.” Moreover, 70 percent of California cities failed to meet their housing goals for any income level.
One city that more than surpassed their state-mandated goals? Beverly Hills, which was required to build only three new homes, and instead built 84. As reported by the Bay City Beacon, “Senator Wiener argues that the flawed methodology in calculating RHNA goals is to blame for these baffling results. Cities self-report projected population growth based on recent trends, which predictably, results in lower housing production goals for cities that have seen more displacement of lower-income communities, or have generally resisted growth amid the rapid increase in jobs throughout the state. In general, if a city reports a population plateau, current RHNA methodology assumes little to no demand for new housing.”
Last year, Wiener championed California Senate Bill 35, which the Beacon explains “provided ‘by-right’ permitting of qualifying housing developments in cities that fell short of their state-mandated Regional Housing Needs Allocation goals.” Now Wiener has introduced SB 828, which is designed to “reform the methodology” of how the RHNA goals are calculated, as well as increasing the penalties for failing to meet them.
“California has a huge housing deficit due to years of under-production,” said Sen. Wiener in a statement, “and we need to dig out of that hole.”
If the bill passes, RNHA housing goals would “roll over” from year to year, so any city that came up short would still be expected to make up the difference on top of the next year’s new goals. The bill also include provisions that factored in “residential displacement” caused by events such as foreclosures or evictions, and would require the housing goals to evolve based on the ratio between median home prices and median incomes, a provision designed to require cities to meet the needs of lower and middle-income residents.