By Pete Parkinson, AICP and Barbara Kautz, FAICP
Attached is HCD’s recently released Housing Element Update Guidance http://www.hcd.ca.gov/hpd. APA California, the League of Cities, CSAC, and the COGs participated in developing the Guidance, which is intended to make HCD¹s review of Housing Elements more predictable and to result in fewer reviews.
The new Guidance contains two key elements. A Completeness Checklist will help local agencies determine whether their draft Housing Element includes everything that is specified in the statute. Local agencies can also use the Checklist when drafting scopes of work for consultants. HCD staff will use the checklist to determine whether anything is missing from the draft element before HCD staff completes a substantive review. If the element is missing key components, HCD will notify the community before starting its substantive review. The second tool is the Streamlined Update Template. This tool helps focus HCD on what has actually changed since the last Housing Element was adopted and will guide HCD reviewers to those new sections that need substantive review in the new cycle. To qualify for streamlined review, cities and counties must have had their last Housing Element certified by HCD, completed any required rezoning of sites, and adopted (if applicable) ordinances regarding emergency shelters, transitional and supportive housing, density bonuses, and reasonable accommodation. Even if an agency doesn’t qualify for streamlined review, it may wish to direct HCD to areas where it made changes from its last adopted element. Most agencies not eligible for streamlined review will be those that did not adopt Housing Elements at all in the last cycle. APA is hopeful that the Guidance will make future Housing Element review less frustrating than in the past. Communities in San Diego County have already started to submit draft Housing Elements to HCD for review. Of the eight draft Housing Elements submitted in 2012, seven were found to be in substantial compliance after the first review. Pete Parkinson is Director of the Sonoma County Permit and Resource Management Department and former Vice-president for Policy and Legislation for APA California. Barbara Kautz, FAICP, is a partner at Goldfarb & Lipman LLP and was formerly Community Development Director for the City of San Mateo. Both participated in the Housing Element Focus Group.