Most SoCal cities miss state housing plan deadline

124 cities and counties risk penalties for failing to get plans approved for 474K homes

Residential real estate, Southern California, housing element, rezoning, penalties
(Photo Illustration by The Real Deal with Getty)

Nearly two thirds of Southern California cities and counties have breezed past a state deadline to plan more homes, giving up a 2.5-year extension to rezone land.

Some 124 governments failed to get their final “housing element” plan approved by Oct. 15, forcing them to become compliant or face major penalties, the Orange County Register reported.

The consequences of remaining out of compliance can be severe for the 124 jurisdictions, which have been ordered to plan for a combined 474,210 new homes. Missing the final deadline means they no longer have until February 2025 to rezone communities.

Unless they get state approval for a new blueprint on how to meet housing goals by 2030, and rezone enough land to build them, they risk fines, lawsuits and the loss of billions of dollars in housing and transportation grants.

The delinquent jurisdictions also risk losing control over local development.

The Regional Housing Needs Assessment, as it’s known, requires cities and counties to revise their housing elements every eight years to account for population growth and ensure that housing supply meets demand, with adequate housing for low- and moderate-income residents.

The housing plans outline where and how new housing can be built and on what sites developers can build new homes. Once the housing element is adopted, governments must rezone enough land for the new affordable and market-rate housing.

Currently, 121 cities and the counties of Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino “are doubly non-compliant,” according to the state Housing and Community Development Department.

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“There are real consequences right now for jurisdictions that remain out of compliance, including ineligibility for a handful of funding programs at the state,” David Zisser, a deputy director for accountability at the housing department, told the Register. That’s why there’s plenty of reason for jurisdictions to continue to work to get their housing elements into compliance.”

The upside is that 73 jurisdictions that won state approval for their plans represent 65 percent of the 1.3 million new housing units the state wants to build in Southern California by the end of the decade.

They include some of the region’s biggest cities, from Los Angeles, Long Beach, Santa Ana, Riverside, Fontana, Ontario, Moreno Valley, Irvine and Torrance. They also include Los Angeles, Ventura and Imperial counties.

The cities of Redondo Beach and Santa Monica recently felt the effects of missing a key February housing element deadline, even though they both met Saturday’s deadline to get their housing plans approved.
Developers in Santa Monica are seeking approval for thousands of homes under the so-called “builder’s remedy,” a rule giving developers more leeway under the state’s Housing Accountability Act.

The legal loophole forces cities without an approved housing element to approve projects that violate planning and zoning rules, like height limits, so long as they include a certain percentage of low- or moderate-income housing.

The untested builder’s remedy could impact Redondo Beach and Santa Monica because developers applied for approval while those cities still were out of compliance with the housing element rules.

Dana Bartholomew

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