Officials in at least two OC cities are slated to adopt updated housing plans this week, marking another chapter in a countywide debate on where to zone for new homes during a worsening state housing crisis.

It also comes after roughly two years of local city council members battling the state and a Southern California regional board over new housing mandates. 

Last year, cities across Orange County filed their draft housing plan updates to state officials with a deadline to submit the drafts back in October. 

Now, cities have until the end of next week to officially adopt the new plans.

According to a state database, as of Monday, less than 10 cities in the county have adopted updated housing plans including Garden Grove, Brea, San Clemente, and Mission Viejo – despite the upcoming deadline from the state to do so.

The database does not include Buena Park, where council members approved the updated plans last week.

Costa Mesa and Dana Point city council members are expected to join that list and approve their updated housing plans, known as the housing element, for the next seven years at their city council meetings tonight.

“The Housing Element update is a comprehensive statement of the City’s current and future housing needs and a listing of proposed actions to facilitate the provision of housing to meet those needs,” reads a Costa Mesa staff report.

Officials in Costa Mesa have been mandated by a regional board of elected officials from Southern California to find space in their city to zone for 11,760 new homes by 2029 – a task officials there have pushed back on in the past.

Of those homes, 2,919 units have to be for very low income families while 1,794 will have to be for low income families.

Costa Mesa’s housing element can be found by clicking here.

In Dana Point, officials are tasked with figuring out where 530 new homes would go – 147 of which have to be for very low families and 84 for low income families, according to a city staff report.

Dana Point’s housing element can be found by clicking here.

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Last week, the Buena Park City Council adopted their updated housing element.

Officials there were mandated to zone for 8,919 new homes – 2,119 for very low income families and 1,343 homes for low income families.

Councilman Art Brown said at the Jan. 25 city council meeting that the city is required to zone for more expensive homes than low and moderate income houses – which he said seems backwards.

He also said the state is keeping a watchful eye to make cities comply with housing element laws.

“Whether we like it or not, we’ve got to plan for the houses and I don’t look forward to the day we’re going to have five and six-story apartment houses all over the city,” Brown said at the meeting.

In Anaheim, officials have to zone for 17,453 homes – 3,767 for very low income families and 2,396 for low income families.

They have yet to adopt their housing element update, but a draft version is available for review on their city website.

Newport Beach officials have also pushed back on their allocation of nearly 5,000 homes but the state received a draft plan last October from the city and a revised draft in November for review.

The state sent a letter to the city last month noting revisions to the plan were still necessary, encouraging city officials to make changes and adopt the housing element.

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Over the last couple years, cities across Orange County have fought back against the state over their housing mandates and some officials have called for greater local control on zoning and housing issues.

Meanwhile, housing advocates have argued that for too long in Orange County there has been an overproduction of high income homes and underproduction of affordable housing, which they say has fueled the homelessness crisis.

[Read: City Officials Across Orange County Are Taking The State Mandated Housing Battle to Court]

Efforts to reduce the number of homes OC cities will have to zone for have been unsuccessful.

It started after the state assigned the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) — made up of city council members across the region — to come up with zoning for 1.3 million homes across six counties, including OC, by 2029.

Orange County ended up with over 180,000 homes — over 75,000 of those have to be very low income to low income homes.

Much of the uproar from the cities came over the methodology the regional board used to distribute the housing goals across Southern California.

Costa Mesa officials even tried to reduce their allocation by half with an appeal to SCAG – citing not only concerns over the methodology, but also arguing they have limited land available for the development of homes.

So did officials from roughly half the cities in the county.

But all those appeals were denied by the regional board.

Dana Point, Buena Park and Anaheim did not appeal their allocation with the regional board.

The cities must adopt their housing plans by the end of next week to remain in compliance with state law. If they fail to adopt a plan cities could potentially face lawsuits from the state.

Once adopted, the plans will be submitted to the state for review and certification.

Hosam Elattar is a Voice of OC Reporting Fellow. Contact him @helattar@voiceofoc.org or on Twitter @ElattarHosam.

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