California state law recognizes that local governments play a vital role in developing affordable housing. In 1969, the state mandated that all California cities, towns and counties must plan for the housing needs of our residents—regardless of income.
This state mandate is called the Housing Element and Regional Housing Needs Allocation, or RHNA. As part of RHNA, the California Department of Housing and Community Development, or HCD, determines the total number of new homes the Bay Area needs to build—and how affordable those homes need to be—in order to meet the housing needs of people at all income levels.
ABAG, working with the Housing Methodology Committee, then distributes a share of the region’s housing need to each city, town and county in the region. Each local government must then update the Housing Element of its general plan to show the locations where housing can be built and the policies and strategies necessary to meet the community’s housing needs.
ABAG’s RHNA Responsibilities
ABAG conducts the RHNA process every eight years as required by state law. ABAG’s work on the RHNA for 2023-2031 has begun with the formation of the RHNA Housing Methodology Committee, which began meetings in October.
The schedule of key milestones provides more details.
The last completed cycle is from 2015 to 2023. The RHNA is required to be consistent with the growth pattern from the region’s long-term land use and transportation plan, Plan Bay Area.
The RHNA process has many components, as follows:
Region’s Total Housing Need
HCD identifies the number of housing units needed across all income levels for the San Francisco Bay Area for an eight-year period. The current cycle is the sixth RHNA cycle. The fifth cycle was for 2015 to 2023.
Housing Methodology Committee
Working with elected officials, local staff and stakeholders, we develop a methodology to distribute to each local government a fair share of the total number of housing units by income the Bay Area needs to add. The Housing Methodology Committee began meeting in October.
Local Jurisdiction Survey and Fair Housing Report
By law, ABAG is required to survey its member jurisdictions to gather information to inform the development of the RHNA methodology. Recent legislation also requires ABAG to collect information on jurisdictions’ fair housing issues, strategies and actions for achieving fair housing goals. ABAG conducted the survey in early 2020 and compiled a summary of the results.
Local Housing Element Updates
Once a local government has received its final RHNA from ABAG, it must revise the Housing Element of its general plan and update zoning ordinances to accommodate its portion of the region's housing need. Communities are also required to report their progress to HCD annually.
As part of the RHNA process, local jurisdictions have the opportunity to form a subregion to conduct an allocation process that parallels — but is separate from — the regional process.
Once each subregion receives its share of the total housing need by income, it must meet the same statutory requirements and follow the same steps as the regional allocation process.
Every subregion must develop its own methodology, issue draft allocations to member jurisdictions, conduct the revision and appeal processes, and issue final allocations.
Two subregions have formed for the 2023-2031 RHNA:
- Napa County (includes City of American Canyon, City of Napa, Town of Yountville, and the County of Napa)
- Solano County (includes all jurisdictions)
Housing Policy Tool Kits
HCD Building Blocks Housing Element Toolkit: Visit the HCD website for a comprehensive toolkit that offers step by step instructions on how to put together an effective Housing Element.
Housing Policy Toolkit, Regional Housing Forum [PDF]: Download ABAG’s own housing toolkit “Maintaining Housing Affordability and Neighborhood Stability in the Bay Area.” We cover a series of policy recommendations published by a number of organizations.
Housing Policy Directory & Toolkit: Find out what housing policies are in use in communities throughout the Bay Area and learn more details about housing best practices, including key issues to consider and links to sample ordinances.
A recent webinar provided local staff with a template PowerPoint to assist staff they prepare for upcoming housing element update. ABAG-MTC staff presented an overview of the Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) process and a high-level analysis of new housing element site requirements and impacts on existing RHNA sites.
View the webinar recording here. The password is 394825.