Audit finds flaws in state’s housing allocation goals

Challenges in LA, OC could be bolstered by errors cited in Santa Barbara, Sacramento


An audit that found flaws in the state’s housing goals has called into question housing allocations as they are being challenged in the Bay Area and Southern California.

A state audit of California’s housing department found errors and a lack of adequate review, resulting in an understatement of future housing needs around Sacramento and Santa Barbara, the Orange County Register reported. It recommended changes be made to correct deficiencies in housing allocation procedures.

The Housing and Community Development Department audit could call into question the accuracy of the state housing department’s housing goals for regions across the state.

“HCD staff made clerical data input errors that were not caught in two of the three needs assessments that we looked at,” Acting State Auditor Michael Tilden told the Register in a phone interview. “HCD doesn’t have a sufficient management review process.”

A housing spokesman said it’s unlikely the requested changes could be made in time to affect housing allocations in the Bay Area and Southern California, now under dispute.

The state’s mandated target for Southern California tripled to 1.34 million new units in the current planning cycle, which began in October and runs through 2029. In the Bay Area, it more than doubled to just over 441,000 new homes by 2031.

Cities in Los Angeles and Orange counties sued the state in June to challenge the housing targets, saying they should only be required to build half the required 1.34 million homes. The case, dismissed by a trial judge in November, is under appeal.

“The state auditor makes the case for us as to exactly why we filed the lawsuit against HCD,” said Anaheim City Council member Trevor O’Neil, chair of the Orange County Council of Governments, which spearheaded the litigation.

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“We knew HCD made errors in the calculation. We knew they didn’t follow the required statues when they promulgated the regional (housing) determination,” he said. “The same shortcomings were found in (two of) the three regions (the state auditor) sampled, which indicates there’s a pattern of transgression from what the state law requires.”

Under the state’s Regional Housing Needs Assessment program, cities and counties must plan for projected housing needs at all income levels.

Local jurisdictions that fail to amend their general housing plans and approve adequate zoning to meet their targets can be found to be out of compliance. Penalties range from a loss of planning authority to denial of state grants, plus fines.

In Southern California, 191 cities and six counties were required to get the “housing element” of their general plans approved by Feb. 12 – but just eight local jurisdictions met that deadline, a state official said.

That means 179 jurisdictions now have until next October to complete their zoning, or be deemed to be out of compliance.

In February, state housing officials ordered the City of Los Angeles to rezone to accommodate 255,000 new homes – or risk losing billions in affordable housing grants.

[Orange County Register] – Dana Bartholomew

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