How Housing Elements Work

State law requires each city and county to adopt a general plan containing at least seven mandatory elements including housing. Unlike the other general plan elements, the housing element is required to be updated every five to eight years, and is subject to detailed statutory requirements as well as mandatory review by the California Department of Housing and Community Development (Department).

The cooperation between government and the private sector is critical to attainment of the State’s housing goals. The availability of an adequate supply of housing affordable to workers, families, and seniors is critical to the State’s long-term economic competitiveness and the quality of life for all Californians. Housing element law is the State’s primary market-based strategy to increase housing supply, affordability and choice.

In general, a housing element must include at least the following components:

  • A Housing Needs Assessment
  • A Sites Inventory and Analysis
  • An Analysis of Constraints on Housing
  • Housing Programs
  • Quantified Objectives

So far, in the current housing element planning cycle, 80 jurisdictions have adopted programs to rezone or upzone sites. This will increase residential capacity at higher densities in their housing elements. The State role in housing element law is critical in support of State policies such as those encouraging infill development and development standards accommodating affordable housing needs.

The California State Legislature has determined that “[t]he availability of housing is of vital statewide importance, and the early attainment of decent housing and a suitable living environment for every Californian, including farmworkers, is a priority of the highest order.” Government Code Section 65580.