Housing Element Update

Overview

State law requires every city and county to have a housing plan. The housing plan must include a predetermined “fair share” allocation of housing that cities and counties must accommodate for households at various income levels during a state-designated planning period. The City of Laguna Hills is required to plan for 1,985 new housing units during a planning period covering 2021-2029. The City is requesting assistance from residents to determine how and where to plan for the housing units allocated to the City - 1,985 units.

This allocation was determined through a process known as the Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) which is described in more detail below. The RHNA process is required by the state, and every region in the state is subject to a RHNA. As a result of the RHNA process recently completed for Southern California, the cities and counties in Southern California are required to plan for over 1.3 million new housing units for a planning period covering 2021-2029. The RHNA is subject to state approval, and on October 15, 2019 the state directed that the Southern California region plan for 1.3 million new housing units. The state’s determination can be found here.

The distribution of the RHNA is accomplished through the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG). After a lengthy one-year evaluation process, SCAG distributed the RHNA to cities and counties throughout Southern California. SCAG’s distribution of the RHNA to cities and counties can be found here.

The City must now determine how best to plan to accommodate the 1,985 units allocated to it through the RHNA process. More information regarding the RHNA process is available at https://scag.ca.gov/rhna..

The following videos were produced by the Orange County Council of Governments and the Association of Cities - Orange County to explain the RHNA and Housing Element process.

This short informative video explains why the RHNA process takes place (click the image to play):RHNA VIDEO OPENING IMAGE Opens in new window

The second video provides a brief overview of the RHNA process (click the image to play): 

RHNA VIDEO OPENING IMAGE Opens in new window

The third video briefly explains the Housing Element document (Click image to play):

RHNA3 Image for video link Opens in new window

The City’s Housing Element

The City’s housing plan is contained in a “Housing Element” which is included in the City’s General Plan. The City’s General Plan is a comprehensive long-range planning document that directs the physical development of the City. The General Plan represents the community’s view of its future and becomes a blueprint for creating the view envisioned by the community. The City last completed a comprehensive update of the Laguna Hills General Plan in 2009, which sought to preserve and enhance the community’s existing strengths such as its beautiful natural setting of rolling hills, miles of trails and connected open spaces, attractive and safe neighborhoods, and sound local economy given the work and shopping destinations located in the city at the time.

The General Plan is considered comprehensive because it addresses a wide range of issues that affect the city such as new development, or social concerns that can affect the overall quality of life in the community. The General Plan is considered a “long-term” plan since it looks 20 years or more into the future. The General Plan is also divided into specific “elements” that address various topics including land use, housing, circulation, conservation, open space, noise, and safety. Of the elements mandated to be included in the City’s General Plan only the Housing Element is required to be updated by State law on a regular basis. In addition to the Housing Element, the City will likely need to update portions of the General Plan to ensure consistency between the new Housing Element and older portions of the General Plan. 

What must the City’s Housing Element Address?

The core purpose of a housing element is to plan for the existing and projected housing needs of all segments of the community such as seniors, families, workers, and the disabled. Existing and projected housing needs for these groups are not specifically addressed through the RHNA process.

A central component of the City’s Housing Element is the identification of policies and programs that ensure the City will meet its RHNA allocation of 1,985 units. The Housing Element must also identify properties that could accommodate the City’s RHNA requirements. It is important to note that the City must plan for, but is not obligated to build, the housing required by the RHNA allocation. Once the City identifies properties where it intends to accommodate its RHNA, the City will need to evaluate any zone changes or changes to development standards required to facilitate housing development. The state expects cities to remove barriers to housing development. To ensure barriers to housing construction are eliminated, recent changes to state housing law, such as the Housing Accountability Act, have made it more difficult for cities to deny housing projects.

What is RHNA?

The RHNA process, which applies to all cities and counties in the Southern California region, was completed in March 2021. The RHNA process is managed by the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) which prepares the RHNA, and generally takes into consideration how population changes, the regional economy, and the region’s transportation network affects the need for housing. In addition, SCAG is required to consider how growth in the region will achieve state climate change goals and requirements. 

The RHNA results in a determination of how much housing a local jurisdiction must plan for during a specific housing element planning period. The current housing element planning period for the SCAG region commenced in 2014 will end in October 2021. The upcoming housing element planning period will cover October 2021 through 2029.  For additional information about RHNA, SCAG maintains a comprehensive web page dedicated to RHNA and the RHNA process at https://scag.ca.gov/rhna

The state’s RHNA regulations require the City to plan for housing for all segments of a community, which requires the City to include planning for housing for people with various income levels identified by state law. These income categories are based on the county-wide median income. For Orange County, the current average median income (AMI) for 2021 is $106,700 for a family of four. Other income categories are based on the County AMI, and include Very Low Income, Lower Income, Moderate Income. Housing built to serve these income groups is generally referred to as “affordable housing”. Advocates for housing may also use the term “workforce housing” to describe affordable housing. 

While there are several factors which could establish the exact income amount needed to qualify for affordable housing, Very Low Income, Lower Income, and Moderate Income levels are typically expected to be proportionate to the County Average Median Income (AMI) as follows:

  • Very Low Income:  30% to 50% of AMI
  • Lower Income:  50% to 80% of AMI; the term may also be used to mean 0% to 80% of AMI
  • Moderate Income:  80% to 120% of AMI

The City’s RHNA allocation of 1,985 units is divided among the following income categories.

Income CategoryRequired RHNA
Very Low
568
Low353
Moderate354
Above Moderate (market)
710
Total
1,985 

Information from the state regarding income limits can be accessed here.

The state also publishes household income limits annually to establish the income levels for each county here

The current income limits published by the state for Orange County, adjusted for household size, are below:

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What will the Housing Element Evaluate?

State law requires local governments to adequately plan to meet their existing and projected housing needs, including their share of the regional housing needs allocation. A complete analysis should include a quantification and a descriptive analysis of the specific needs and resources available to address these needs.

The topics required to be addressed by the City’s Housing Element are identified below. Topics are hyperlinked to corresponding requirements on the California Department of Housing and Community Development’s (HCD) website. HCD is the state agency that reviews Housing Elements to determine if they comply with state law.

Existing Housing

Projected Housing Needs

Special Housing

Site Inventory and Analysis

Government Code Section 65583(a)(3) requires local governments to prepare an inventory of land suitable for residential development, including vacant sites and sites having the potential for redevelopment, and an analysis of the relationship of zoning and public facilities and services to these sites. The inventory of land suitable for residential development shall be used to identify sites that can be developed for housing within the planning period.

Constraints

The housing element must identify and analyze potential and actual governmental constraints to the maintenance, improvement, or development of housing for all income levels, including housing for people with disabilities. The analysis should identify the specific standards and processes of these constraints and evaluate their impact on the supply and affordability of housing. The analysis should determine whether local, regulatory standards pose an actual constraint and must also demonstrate local efforts to remove constraints that hinder a jurisdiction from meeting its housing needs.

Program Requirements

Each jurisdiction must identify specific programs in its housing element that will allow it to implement the stated policies and achieve the stated goals and objectives. Programs must include specific action steps the locality will take to implement its policies and achieve its goals and objectives. Programs must also include a specific timeframe for implementation, identify the agencies or officials responsible for implementation, describe the jurisdiction’s specific role in implementation, and (whenever possible) identify specific, measurable outcomes.

Other Requirements

Public Opportunities to Guide Development of the City’s Housing Element

The City’s Planning Division has created a survey in order for residents of Laguna Hills to determine how the Housing Element should plan for the City’s share of the RHNA. A link to the survey is below. Please note the survey will only be active until July 30, 2021. The survey results will be published shortly after the closing date.

The City will also be hosting a virtual Zoom Meeting on Wednesday, June 30, 2021, as well as an in-person workshop in an open-house format on August 5, 2021 (rescheduled from July 14, 2021). A third workshop will be scheduled to share the draft housing element at a date that is yet to be determined. One or more public hearings will also be required to review and ultimately adopt the City’s Housing Element.

Survey Link: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/lagunahillshousingelement

Workshop No. 1 (Virtual/Zoom)

Wednesday, June 30, 2021, 6:00pm

Meeting Link: 

https://zoom.us/j/94671889858?pwd=NWF4WGZuQzZKb0lzZnpWaW5iR2hwZz09#success

Workshop No. 2 (In Person)

Thursday, August 5, 2021, 6PM - 9PM

Laguna Hills Community Center - 25555 Alicia Parkway

Open House Format

Workshop No. 3 (In Person)

TBD

City Council Meetings

TBD

TO SHARE YOUR COMMENTS:

If you would like more information or have any questions or comments, please email the Planning Division at planning@lagunahillsca.gov. Please note all comments provided are a public record.

Staff Contacts
David Chantarangsu, AICP
Community Development Director
Jay Wuu, AICP
Senior Planner
dchantarangsu@lagunahillsca.gov
949-707-2675
jwuu@lagunahillsca.gov
949-707-2662