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A state-mandated policy document that identifies where and how cities will accommodate existing and projected future housing needs for people of all income groups.
According to State Law, a Housing Element must updated every eight years and:
Provide goals, policies, quantified objectives, and scheduled programs to preserve, improve, and develop housing;
Identify and analyze existing and projected housing needs for all economic segments of the community;
Identify adequate sites zoned and available within the eight-year housing cycle to meet Larkspur’s fair share of regional housing needs at all income levels;
Be certified (approved) by the State Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) as complying with State Law; and
Be internally consistent with other parts of the General Plan.
The need for every city and county in California to plan for their ‘fair share’ of the projected housing need is based in Housing Element Law, enacted in 1969 (Government Code Section 65583). The concept behind the law is that, in order for the private development market to adequately address housing demand, local governments must adopt housing plans that provide opportunities for – and not unduly constrain – housing development.
Having a certified Housing Element ensures:
Eligibility for critical State and Federal funds;
Local land use control; and
Eligibility for State-administered funding for roads, sewer, parks, housing, and planning.
Without a certified Housing Element, the City is:
At risk of losing local land use control, including the City’s ability to issue building permits and keep its zoning authority;
Responsible for accommodating an increased number of housing units;
Ineligible for various State-administered funds for roads, sewer, parking, housing, and planning; and
More open to legal action and challenges of its General Plan.
This legal action could come from developers, housing advocates, and California’s Department of Housing and Community Development.
The supply of housing is critical to achieving a variety of community objectives, including economic development and preserving and producing an adequate supply of housing affordable to people at a variety of income levels. The housing element addresses the special housing needs of farmworkers, single-parent households, large multi-generational households, people with disabilities, and people who are experiencing homelessness.
Housing issues affect the entire community — residents, employers, and the public and private sectors. The inclusion of community stakeholders in the Housing Element update process helps ensure appropriate housing strategies are more efficiently and effectively evaluated, developed, and implemented. Successful public participation is important because a diverse cross section of the population can be engaged in defining the housing problem and in crafting solutions that work for everyone in the community. Broad participation and true engagement of the public increases the likelihood that the community members involved in the discussion and planning processes will support new housing strategies and housing developments.
Since 1969, the State of California has required that all local governments (cities, towns and counties) adequately plan to meet the housing needs of everyone in our communities. The State Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) determines the total housing need for each eight-year planning period. The Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) then determines how many new homes, and the affordability of those homes, each local government in the Bay Area must plan for in its Housing Element.
As illustrated in the following table, the City’s total RHNA during the current 2015-2023 planning cycle is 1,088 units. The City has exceeded the RHNA for the low-income and above-moderate (market rate) income categories. However, the remaining very-low income allocation is 89 units and the remaining moderate-income allocation is 131 units.
Regional Housing Needs Allocation Progress Report (2015 – 2021)
RHNA Unit Allocation
2015 – 2020
RHNA Units Remaining
(31 – 50% AMI)
(51 – 80% AMI)
(81 – 120% AMI)
(Above 120% AMI)
Remaining Units = 220
*The category “extremely low-income households” is a subset of “very low-income households,” and is defined as 30 percent or less (0 – 30%) of the area median income.
The 6th Cycle Housing Element Update (2023-2031) will identify where and how the City will accommodate Gilroy's assigned RHNA for the next eight-year planning cycle:
RHNA Income Category
2023-2031 RHNA Unit Count
Very Low (31 – 50% AMI)
Low (51 – 80% AMI)
Moderate (81 – 120% AMI)
Above Moderate (Above 120% AMI)
Under current state law, cities are not required to build housing units. Housing construction is still driven by the private market. Instead, a city is required to ensure that sufficient land and appropriate zoning standards are available to accommodate all assigned units. To do so, cities must determine whether the current zoning standards can accommodate its RHNA assignment. If not, the city is required to designate new sites for this purpose – usually through amending the General Plan and Zoning designations.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) establishes income limits based upon the Area Median Income (AMI) for each county in each state. These limits are used in determining a family’s initial eligibility for "affordable housing" programs. In 2021, the Area Median Income (AMI) for a four-person household in Santa Clara County was $151,300, as defined by the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD). Based on the County AMI, the income limits for a family of four (4) within each income category are represented below:
Extremely Low Income: $49,700 (0 – 30% AMI)
Very Low Income: $82,850 (31 – 50% AMI)
Low Income: $117,750 (51 – 80% AMI)
Moderate Income: $117,751 to $181,550 (81 – 120% AMI)
Above Moderate: Above $181,550