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Housing Element Update
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

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1. What is Included in the Housing Element? 

The Housing Element is comprised of the following major components:

  • Review of effectiveness of existing Housing Element

  • Assessment of existing and projected housing needs

  • Identification of resources – financial, land, administrative

  • Evaluation of constraints to housing

  • Housing Plan – goals, policies and programs

Results from each of the four key components of the analysis — review & revise, housing needs, resources, and constraints — are reflected in the goals, policies and programs in the implementation plan. The entire process must reflect public participation from the draft stage to final adoption.

2. Why does Yorba Linda have to plan for more housing?

Based on California’s continued population growth, the State Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) estimates that the state needs upwards of 200,000 housing units per year in order to maintain a healthy housing sector. Currently, the market is producing less than half of that amount. This scarcity has driven California’s housing costs to be the highest in the nation, prohibiting occupations like teachers, nurses, public safety officers and younger professionals the ability to afford owning a home, essential for building a stronger and vibrant economy.


State housing element law requires each city and county to plan for their “fair share” of the State’s housing growth needs.   The Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) is the regional agency responsible for defining the fair share allocation among its six counties (Imperial, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura), and 191 cities in the Southern California region. Based on economic and demographic forecasts, the State has determined that the SCAG region needs to accommodate 1,341,827 housing units between 2021 and 2029 to meet housing demand. 

3. How much new housing will Yorba Linda need to plan for in the next 8-year Housing Element cycle?


SCAG has allocated the region’s 1,341,827 housing unit growth needs to each city and county through a process called the Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA). Yorba Linda’s draft RHNA for the 2021-2029 planning period (6th RHNA cycle) is 2,415 units, distributed among the following income categories:


The RHNA represents the minimum number of housing units Yorba Linda is required to plan for in its Housing Element by providing “adequate sites” through general plan and zoning.  The State requires that jurisdictions create a sufficient buffer in the Housing Element sites inventory beyond that required by the RHNA to ensure adequate site capacity exists throughout the planning period. 


The City’s RHNA represents a planning target and is not a building quota.  However, the City must identify sufficient sites to meet the RHNA allocation based on criteria specified in State housing law; those sites must be realistic and probable for housing development within the prescribed timeframe, and the City cannot later impose undue constraints to development of housing, particularly among those sites identified. 

4. Is there anything that can be done to reduce the City’s RHNA obligation?


Over the past three years, Yorba Linda has been actively involved in the 6th cycle Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) preparation process with the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG), and has provided regular updates on the progress of this effort in previous issues of the Yorba Linda Connection. Yorba Linda Councilwoman Peggy Huang serves as the Chair of SCAG’s RHNA Subcommittee, which was the committee responsible for providing detailed analysis and recommendations to SCAG’s Regional Council on the RHNA methodology. Unfortunately, the RHNA Subcommittee’s recommendation for an equitable housing solution that was unanimously supported by SCAG’s Community, Economic and Human Development Committee was overturned through a last-minute decision by its Regional Council to redistribute significantly more housing into Orange County and Los Angeles County. This resulted in Yorba Linda’s draft RHNA allocation increasing from 200 to 2,415 units.

Despite numerous letters from City staff, the Mayor, the City Council and numerous individual residents, the City’s efforts to lower its RHNA obligation have been ignored by SCAG and by the California Department of Housing and Community Development. These letters are available to view here.


On October 26, 2020, the City filed a formal appeal for a revision of its RHNA allocation to reduce its housing obligation. The City determined that this number was calculated in a manner that did not follow state housing laws and requested an adjustment of the City’s housing responsibility. The City also argued that SCAG did not follow the law by creating a regional housing plan that contradicts its sustainable communities strategy as required by state housing law. The City’s public hearing was held on January 15, 2021; however, the RHNA Appeals Board unanimously denied the City’s appeal. Per state housing law, decisions of the RHNA Appeals Board are final and cannot be further appealed.

5. What was Yorba Linda’s RHNA for the 2014-2021 (5th Cycle) planning period, and did the City have to rezone sites to accommodate this need?

The City’s 2008-2014 4th cycle Housing Element (adopted in October 2011) involved the rezoning of 14 sites at densities of 10 to 30 units per acre as required to address the RHNA.


SCAG has allocated the region’s 1,341,827 housing unit growth needs to each city and county through a process called the Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA). Yorba Linda’s draft RHNA for the 2021-2029 planning period (6th RHNA cycle) is 2,415 units, distributed among the following income categories:

  • Projects with entitlements

  • Vacant and underdeveloped residential sites (rezoned during 5th cycle)

  • Second residential units (now referred to as Accessory Dwelling Units)

The City’s residential sites inventory from the above sources provided capacity for up to 1,078 additional units, including sites suitable for development of 621 lower income units, 391 moderate-income units, and 66 above moderate-income units.  During the first six years of the Housing Element (2014-2019), the City issued building permits for a total of 932 new housing units, including 166 units affordable to lower and moderate-income households.

6. Do any of the 14 sites from the existing Housing Element remain undeveloped, and can they be reused in the sites inventory for the 2021-2029 Housing Element?

Just two of the 14 sites from the existing Element have not yet been developed: the Postal Annex site at SE Lemon and Eureka (5 potential units), and the Yorba Linda Water District site at 4622 Plumosa (10 potential units).  Two additional Housing Element sites (Lakeview/Altrudy and Lakeview/Mariposa) are entitled for development and projected to be occupied during the 6th cycle Housing Element, contributing a total of 391 units towards the 2021-2029 RHNA, including 47 affordable units. 

Recent changes to Housing Element law add additional criteria to be able to re-use sites identified in a previous Housing Element.  For example:

  • Vacant sites included in the prior two Housing Elements to accommodate lower income households, or non-vacant sites included in the prior Element, cannot be used in future Housing Elements unless: a) the site is zoned to the minimum lower income density thresholds (30 du/acre); and b) zoning allows for development by-right if at least 20% of units are affordable to lower income households.  While the Water District site currently allows 30 du/acre, the Postal Annex site would need to be upzoned from its current 10 du/acre.  

  • Non-vacant sites, small sites (<0.5 acres), and large sites (>10 acres) are presumed to be inappropriate for development of housing for lower income households unless the jurisdiction can provide evidence why the sites would be appropriate; both the Postal Annex site and Water District site are non-vacant and less than 0.5 acres in size.

  • Unless a jurisdiction has established minimum allowable densities, site capacity calculations must be adjusted downwards based on the following factors: a) land use controls and site improvements; b) realistic capacity of site; c) typical densities; and d) environmental and infrastructure constraints. 


Layering these new requirements on a jurisdiction’s sites inventory will both reduce the number of suitable sites and will reduce the presumed unit capacity on sites deemed appropriate and available for development.  Lastly, the “No Net Loss” Law (Government Code section 65863) requires enough sites be maintained to meet the RHNA for all income levels throughout the planning period.   Therefore, State HCD will require jurisdictions create a sufficient buffer in the inventory to ensure adequate sites capacity exists throughout the planning period. 

7. In addition to providing sufficient sites to address the total RHNA, how does the City’s zoning translate to providing adequate sites for each RHNA income category?

Housing Element law provides for the use of “default densities” to assess affordability when evaluating the adequacy of sites to address the RHNA affordability targets. Based on its population within Orange County, Yorba Linda falls within the default density of 30 units per acre for providing sites suitable for development of housing for very low- and low-income households, and 15 units/acre for sites suitable for moderate income households.  This is generally consistent with the default density approach that applied when the City updated the Housing Element in 2013, except that for this new 6th RHNA cycle housing sites will need to be designated and zoned with a minimum allowable density at these levels to count toward the associated lower and moderate income categories.

8. What happens if Yorba Linda does not have its Housing Element certified by the State Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD)?

There are several potential consequences, the greatest of which is the risk of litigation based on a legally inadequate General Plan. Courts can impose a range of sanctions if they rule the housing element invalid, including a moratorium on all development and local land use authority until the housing element is brought into compliance. Furthermore, the jurisdiction is responsible for paying the litigant’s attorney fees. Settlement agreements between the parties often include stipulations for mandatory rezoning and affordable housing production requirements. State housing and related parks and infrastructure funds typically require housing element compliance for eligibility, so failure to secure an HCD approved element can result in a loss of funding. And where a jurisdiction’s prior housing element failed to identify adequate sites to address the RHNA, this unmet RHNA carry over to future housing element cycles, rendering HCD compliance in future housing element cycles extremely difficult.


AB 72 now expands HCDs enforcement authority to refer non-compliant jurisdictions to the State Attorney General’s Office for litigation, as evidenced by the recent lawsuit the State brought against the City of Huntington Beach.

9. How can the public be involved in the Housing Element process?

The Housing Element update is a community-based process that will include a variety of public engagement opportunities.   This will include:

  • On-line housing needs and sites survey

  • Public study sessions before Planning Commission and City Council

  • Community-wide workshops

  • Environmental scoping meeting

  • Review of Draft Program Environmental Impact Report

  • Public hearings before Planning Commission and City Council

To join the mailing list for notification, see the Sta­y Informed/Participate page to submit your email address. Meeting notices and any announcements will also be posted on this page.

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