Strategy-of-the-Month Club: Housing Element Manual
Posted Date: August 14, 2007


Regulatory Barriers Clearinghouse
Strategy-of-the-Month Club
August 2007
Local governments play a significant role in the
development of affordable housing through their zoning
policies, which help shape the landscape of their
communities. However, local governments with "policing
power" - the power to adopt land use policies that protect
the public's heath, safety, and welfare - often institute
policies that, unintentionally or otherwise, exclude
affordable housing. As a result, some states, such as
California, have mandated that local governments adopt a
plan to address the development of affordable housing.
Starting in 1980, the California Housing Element law
has required each city and county to revise and update a
detailed housing element as part of its general plan.
The housing element requires that local governments
assess their housing needs by conducting site-specific
inventories to ensure that a sufficient number of sites
are zoned to allow for appropriate densities with
adequate public infrastructure. Each jurisdiction must
meet its "fair share" of the region's affordable housing
needs by addressing accessibility of affordable housing
to public transportation, the number of farm worker
housing units that are needed, and the maximum number of
units allowed to be rehabilitated or conserved. In
addition, each locality's housing plan must include a
program to remove local government constraints to
affordable housing development.
California law explicitly calls for public involvement
in the development or revision of housing elements;
however, the complexity of the laws can make it
difficult for the public to understand the process. For
this reason, the California Affordable Housing Law
Project of the Public Interest Law Project released the
second edition of the California Housing Element Manual
in February of this year. The manual provides affordable
housing advocates with the tools they need to analyze,
advocate, and navigate their way through the housing
law. The manual includes:
o An overview and revisions of the law;
o Process and timelines;
o Advocacy and citizen participation;
o Text of all housing element statutes;
o A question and answer section; and
o A review worksheet to analyze the element.
To view the manual in its entirety, please
We hope this information proves useful to you in your
efforts to grow your region's affordable housing stock.
If you have regulatory reform strategies or resources
that you'd like to share, send us an email
at, call us at 1-800-245-2691 (option
4), or visit our website at
Feel free to forward this message to anyone who is
working to reduce regulatory barriers to affordable
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