6th Cycle Housing Element Update
About the Housing Element
The Housing Element is one of the State-mandated components of the County’s General Plan. It provides a framework for the County to accommodate future housing needs, including planning for housing that is suitable for all income levels. The Housing Element has two main purposes:
- To provide an assessment of current and future housing needs for the next eight years.
- To establish housing goals, policies, and programs that direct housing needs, reduce barriers to development, and ensure compliance with State legislation.
The Housing Element is an eight-year plan and the 6th cycle update of the Stanislaus County Housing Element is underway and must be certified by the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) by a pre-determined deadline, January 15, 2024.
The Housing Element includes a strategy for the County to meet its share of the Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA). HCD determines the total number of new housing units that each region must accommodate during the eight-year planning period. The Stanislaus Council of Governments (StanCOG) is responsible for initiating discussions with the public and representatives from local jurisdictions to finalize and adopt the methodology to allocate the region’s housing needs among member jurisdictions. Through land use and zoning regulations, Stanislaus County must plan for its share of the RHNA, including housing that is affordable to households at all income levels.
The Housing Element update will assess how current demands are being met and will plan for projected housing needs over the next eight years. The Housing Element also addresses housing for special needs populations, such as persons with disabilities, very low-income residents, and persons experiencing homelessness. The County’s housing strategy must also reduce any identified barriers to equality and opportunity.
In addition, the Housing Element update must include the following:
- Community Needs Assessment: A complete analysis of the specific housing needs and an inventory of the resources and constraints relevant to addressing housing needs
- Sites Inventory: An inventory of land suitable for residential development that could accommodate the County’s RHNA allocation
- Constraints Analysis: An evaluation of governmental and nongovernmental barriers to housing production in Stanislaus County
- Goals, Policies, and Programs: Identification of specific policies and actions to implement the Housing Element
- Other analyses, policies, and goals required to meet community housing needs, and/or comply with applicable State law
- Public Outreach and Workshops - Ongoing
- Housing Element Sites Inventory - Spring-Summer 2022
- Housing Element Program Development - Summer-Fall 2022
- Prepare Draft Documents (Housing Element, Safety Element, and Environmental Justice policies) - Summer 2022 - Early 2023
- Public Draft Element Reviews - Early 2023 and Summer 2023
- Environmental Review - Early 2023-Fall 2023
- Public Hearings - Winter 2023
State law requires regular updates to the Housing Element to ensure relevancy and accuracy. These updates are currently required every eight years. The time from one update to the next is called a housing cycle. Stanislaus County is currently in the 5th housing cycle that began in 2015 and will end in 2023. The upcoming 6th Housing Element cycle will cover the next eight-year planning period (2024-2032).
Having an approved housing plan helps make Stanislaus County eligible for grants to help fund infrastructure to support housing development and more.
The RHNA decides the number of residential units the county must plan for in the Housing Element. The RHNA identifies the number of residential units required for each economic income segment, which includes very-low, low, moderate, and above-moderate incomes. The calculation of income levels is based on Area Median Income (AMI), which for Stanislaus County is $60,500 per year for a household of four. Additional information can be found at https://www.stancog.org/rhna.shtm
While cities and counties do not generally build housing - that is the function of private developers - they do adopt plans, regulations and programs that provide opportunities for how and where housing development occurs. Although the Housing Element identifies sites that are available in the county to plan for future housing, it does not mean the property owner is required to build the housing within the next eight years or any time in the future. Rather, the County is required to identify sites that are suitable for development and may implement programs to support housing development.
In a word, density. The foundation of State’s Housing Element Law is based on the premise that density is a proxy for affordability. The idea being, the more housing units on a site (density) translates to lower construction costs per unit, which translates to lower rental/sale prices of those units (affordability). Based on this, California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) assigns minimum density figures to each income category. In Stanislaus County, HCD identified a zoning density of least 20 dwelling units per acre to be appropriate for the development of housing that can accommodate low-income households.
The updated housing plan must show the exact locations where future housing can be built and identify the potential number of homes that can be built at those locations. The County’s Housing Element includes an inventory of the sites that are compliant with current legislation and shows where housing units can be accommodated. The sites must be vacant or underutilized and have potential for development during the eight-year planning period. Some of the sites identified may be already zoned for housing that can accommodate a certain percentage of the RHNA income categories.
The County may establish criteria and eliminate sites based on the following:
- Topography is not conducive to building
- Sites are not safe because they are in a flood zone or high-fire area
- Sites are in areas deemed off limits by the airport because they are in the flight path or noise levels would be too high
Criteria to support additional housing may include:
- Vacant lots not designated as open space
- Underutilized sites, such as lots with uses or structures that are no longer needed or need rehabilitation
- Locations where housing could be become denser than it is today
- Locations near public transit and essential services like neighborhood serving retail centers
- Sites where infrastructure, such as water and sewer service, can support more housing
Per the HCD Site Inventory Guidebook, sites best suited to accommodate the RHNA for lower income households should include factors such as:
- Proximity to transit
- Access to high performing schools and jobs
- Access to amenities, such as parks and services
- Access to health care facilities and grocery stores
- Locational criteria that meet Low-income Housing Tax Credit Program funding
- Proximity to available infrastructure and utilities
- Sites that do not require environmental mitigation
The County’s housing opportunity sites plan is also developed with input from residents during the housing element update process.
In order to address new legislation, additional updates to the General Plan are required as a result of the Housing Element Update. Upon an update to the Housing Element, the Safety Element must be updated along with incorporation of environmental justice policies.
The Safety Element describes the natural and manmade hazards that could impact people and property in the County. State law requires safety elements to be updated at the same time as housing element updates. New information on impacts resulting from climate change will be added to the Safety Element. The goal of the Safety Element is to reduce the potential short and long-term risk of death, injuries, property damage, and economic and social dislocation resulting from fires, floods, droughts, earthquakes, landslides, climate change, and other hazards. State law requires jurisdictions to update the Safety Element upon the next revision of the Housing Element. The major hazards that could impact Stanislaus County include:
- Extreme heat
In September 2016, Senate Bill 1000 was adopted to require jurisdictions with “disadvantaged communities” to incorporate environmental justice goals, policies, and objectives into their general plans. Disadvantaged communities are neighborhoods with low-income households that are exposed to pollution (e.g., freeways, landfills). These communities are typically identified through a mapping tool or other measures that help identify communities that are most affected by many sources of pollution, and where people are often especially vulnerable to the effects of pollution. State law requires environmental justice policies to be incorporated into the general plan upon the adoption of two or more general elements, as well as promotes civil engagement in the public decision-making process in an effort to address the needs of disadvantaged communities. Stanislaus County is in the process of updating both the Housing Element and the Safety Element, which also requires the County to include the environmental justice policies in the general plan.What is Environmental Justice?
According to California Code section 65040.12, environmental justice is the fair treatment of people of all races, cultures, and incomes with respect to the development, adoption, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.
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Stay informed throughout the Housing Element, Safety Element, and Environmental Justice policy process. Sign up to receive surveys and updates via email, and check back for meeting announcements, workshop materials, and public documents for review. Click here to sign up.
For additional comments or questions, email Kristy Doud, Deputy Director, at moc.ytnuocnats@gninnalp.
- Community Workshop #1, provided in English and Spanish (Virtual) - June 23, 2022, 6:00-8:00 pm. Access the meeting at https://us06web.zoom.us/j/86984953284 Meeting ID: 869 8495 3284 Passcode: 739970
- Community Workshop #2 - Summer 2022
- Community Workshop #3 - Fall 2022
- Planning Commission Study Session #1 - TBD
- Planning Commission Study Session #2 - TBD