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Exploring Housing Elements in General Planning

About this post: Exploring Housing Elements in General Planning that will help make decisions about everything from housing policies to zoning rules.

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In California, the cities are required to make a “General Plan” that will help them make decisions about everything from housing policies to zoning rules.

A General Plan is like a blueprint for a city’s future. It sets policy goals and aims that shape and direct the growth of the city. The General Plan is made up of parts, which are called “elements.” Each part talks about a different part of the city’s surroundings, like housing, open space, conservation, or land use.

The Housing Element is one of nine parts of a city’s General Plan that are needed by the State. The Housing Element is different from the others because it needs to be updated every eight years and accepted by the State’s Department of Housing and Community Development.

Why? Because every Californian having a decent home and a good place to live has been named an important goal by the California State Legislature for the whole state. Planning for and meeting the housing, job, and population needs of a city is, after all, one of the most important parts of any Housing Element.

This article is part of our guide “How Executive Directive 1 (ED1) is Shaping LA’s Future”

What does the Housing Element do to do this very important job?

The Housing Element of the General Plan describes the housing conditions and needs of the City. It also sets the goals, aims, and policies that will form the basis of the City’s housing strategy and offers a variety of programs to make mixed-income, long-lasting neighborhoods all over the City. Using the Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) process, the Housing Element sets specific housing production goals for Los Angeles. This is one way it changes the housing supply.

The last time the City of Los Angeles’s Housing Element was updated, problems with affordability were at the top of the list. People were spending more of their income on housing than ever before, and the federal government had a lot less money to deal with the housing problem.

In this situation, the current Housing Element, which was approved in 2013, set housing goals based on four main objectives:

  • Goal 1: A city with enough safe, healthy, cheap housing for people of all ages, races, and incomes, according to their different needs. This will be achieved by building and preserving homes.
  • Goal 2: A city where housing helps make areas safe, decent places to live, and long-lasting.
  • Goal 3: A city where everyone can find a place to live without any bias.

A city that is dedicated to ending and avoiding homelessness is the fourth goal.

These duties are very important to the City of Los Angeles. There aren’t enough cheap and market-rate homes in Los Angeles, as there are in many other California cities. But, using the Housing Element’s goals, policies, and programs as a guide, Los Angeles has taken bold steps to speed up the approval process for all housing developments, paying extra attention to those that plan to include a certain number of accessible units.

The City has created new programs, such as the TOC Incentive Program and the Affordable Housing Linkage Fee, that are making more affordable housing units possible since the Housing Element was put into place. Also, laws like the Permanent Supportive Housing and Interim Motel Conversion rules make it easier for homeless people and families to find housing.

The Housing Element is a big reason why the City has built more homes than it did in the past few decades. The last time this happened was in the late 1980s. In the past, the Housing Element has done a lot to help solve our housing problems by setting community goals and policies and even looking into new programs to help guide future discussions.

There is still a lot of work to be done on the Housing Element, even though the City has made a lot of progress in building more homes since the last update. The City is getting ready to update the Housing Element again, but there are problems like more people not having a place to live and the cost of housing staying high. LA is now working with different groups to go over its housing policies, goals, and aims again, and this time it is planning for the year 2029.

The change to the Housing Element for 2021–2029 began in 2020. Over the last two years, City Planning has provided many in-person and online opportunities for people to contribute to the update process.

We can make Los Angeles a city with areas that are safe, sustainable, and have a variety of housing types for people of all incomes if we all work together.

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