Efforts to address Orange County’s housing crisis are underway this week as cities wrestle with updating their housing plans to zone for thousands of new homes across the county – something that could change the landscape.
At least five more cities in Orange County are expected to adopt updated housing plans for roughly the next eight years after some city officials across the county have fought back against state mandated housing goals with some officials saying the state goals are unrealistic.
With an upcoming deadline at the end of this week, these plans are being adopted amid pressure and new laws from the state to address California’s housing shortage by increasing housing stock.
The state, adamant on increasing its housing stock, has also upped enforcement and formed the housing accountability unit to make sure cities stick to their housing plans.
The new unit formed as part of the state’s 2021-22 budget.
It also comes after officials in roughly half of Orange County’s cities have fought back against mandated zoning for over 180,000 new homes across the county between 2021-2029 and some have called for greater local control on zoning and housing issues.
But those efforts have not made a dent in the number of homes OC has been assigned to plan for in the next coming years.
More than 75,000 of Orange County’s share of homes have to be for very low income to low income households.
At the same time, housing advocates have said that for too long in Orange County there has been an overproduction of high income homes and an underproduction of affordable housing which is fueling the homeless crisis.
Meanwhile, many cities are already struggling with new housing developments – with officials wrestling with the idea of how much their local landscapes will change from the new buildings.
Tonight, the Seal Beach City Council will hold a special meeting at 7 p.m. broadcasted on the city website to consider adopting their updated housing plan – dubbed the housing element.
Officials there note the difficult task of zoning for waves of new homes.
“Cities and counties throughout the state are struggling to produce Housing Element updates that meet the stringent new standards, and Seal Beach is no different,” reads a city staff report.
Seal Beach officials are tasked with figuring out where 1,243 homes will go in their city – of which 258 units have to be for very low income families and 201 have to be for low income families.
The Newport Beach City Council will look at adopting their housing plans Tuesday at their 6 p.m. meeting.
Officials there have been assigned to zone for 4,845 homes – with 1,456 units being for very low income families and 930 units for low income families.
Newport Beach officials have called this an unfeasible task in the past arguing that because the city is on the coast, there’s barely any remaining land not regulated by county, state or federal agencies.
City officials tried to appeal the number of homes they have to zone for with the Southern California Association of Governments — a board made up of city council members across the region — who spread out the over 180,000 homes among OC cities.
That appeal was denied by the regional board along with every appeal filed by an OC city.
Orange City Council members will also grapple with meeting the state’s mandated housing goals at their 6 p.m. meeting Tuesday.
“Given the complex housing issues confronting California, the State has set forth high expectations for municipalities to put policies and programs in place that result in housing production at a range of affordability levels, with particular interest in housing for Very Low and Low Income households,” reads a city staff report.
Orange has been tasked with zoning for 3,936 new homes. 1,067 of those homes have to be for very low income families and 604 have to be for low income families.
Stanton – one of Orange County’s smallest cities – has to zone for 1,231 new homes with 165 of those units being designated for very low income families and 145 homes for low income families.
“So far, 953 units have been either approved, permitted, or under construction since June 30th and can be counted as credit towards the total allocation at 1,231,” reads a staff report.
City officials handed in their draft plan back in October and the Stanton City Council will meet on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. to consider adopting their housing plans.
The Yorba Linda City Council was expected to adopt their housing plans last week, but decided to continue the matter to a special meeting at 5:30 p.m Wednesday so staff could address issues raised by state officials on their plan.
“We’re still working through a few remaining issues with [the state’s Housing and Community Development],” Nate Farnsworth, the city’s planning manager, said at last week’s meeting.
The council is expected to adopt their housing plans at a special meeting on Wednesday at 5:30 p.m.
Yorba Linda has to zone for 2,415 homes – 765 of which have to be for very low income families and 451 for low income families.
Other OC Cities That Have Moved Forward with Housing Plans
So far 12 cities have adopted updated housing plans including Tustin, Westminster, Lake Forest and Aliso Viejo according to an email from Alicia Murillo, a spokesperson for the state’s department of Housing and Community Development, last week.
The list does not include Costa Mesa and Dana Point where city officials adopted their updated housing plans last week.
But just because a city adopts their housing element does not necessarily mean their plan is finalized at the state level and could be subject to further revisions by the state.
Even after adoption, the state can still have cities go back and tweak their plans to meet their requirements before they certify the plans.
In fact, according to Murillo, no city in Orange County currently has a compliant plan.
The consequences for not having a compliant housing element could result in loss of state grant money, loss of local control over development as well as legal action.
Hosam Elattar is a Voice of OC Reporting Fellow. Contact him at email@example.com or on Twitter @ElattarHosam.