Orange County’s Board of Supervisors are set to discuss their housing plan for the third time on Tuesday, with the hopes that the state will finally sign off on the newest iteration.
Currently, the county is out of compliance with the state’s housing rules, having filed a series of proposed housing plans since October 2021 while the state kept asking for changes.
Without an approved plan, the county can’t receive state funding for housing from a variety of different sources, and could receive a fine of as much as $100,000 per month if the plan is still unapproved.
Their new plan calls for the creation of 10,406 new housing units before 2030, with plans for just over 5,000 of those units to be set aside for residents in the low, very low, or extremely low income brackets.
The county is also looking to restart its housing rehabilitation program that’s been dormant since 2014, but there’s no date by which that program is set to be back online.
“OC Community Resources is continuing to work towards the development of a new single-family rehabilitation program for Unincorporated Orange County,” staff wrote in the report.
Yet as of the end of 2022, the county had only completed construction of 323 homes, which only qualified under the “above moderate income,” bracket.
Under the state’s definitions, that means the homes are suited for people making over 120% of the county’s median income – or between $127,800 to $153,5350 a year for a four-person household.
According to the income limits set by the state housing department, Orange County’s median income sits at nearly $128,000.
Acutely low, extremely low, and very low income residents all make less than 50% of the county’s median income each year, under the state’s rules.
A four-person household qualifies as low income if they make less than roughly $115,000 a year. The same household would be very low income if they earn less than $71,150 a year, while extremely low is less than $43,050 annually.
However, the county’s plan notes that the Rancho Mission Viejo development in south Orange County is all currently “being developed,” and is set to bring 799 low income housing units, along with over 7,000 moderate and above moderate income housing units.
According to the report, most of the space for new housing is laid out in Rancho Mission Viejo and portions of Brea Canyon currently occupied by oil fields, with additional plans to build on the former landfill dubbed Coyote Canyon in Newport Beach.
Other smaller developments are planned inside unincorporated pockets of cities like Anaheim, Los Alamitos, Stanton, Orange and Midway City.
County officials aren’t the only ones lagging behind on housing production.
And the county government isn’t the only local jurisdiction struggling to get a housing plan approved.
According to the state Department of Housing and Community Development’s website, the cities of Aliso Viejo, Anaheim, Buena Park, Costa Mesa, Fullerton, Garden Grove, Huntington Beach, La Palma, Laguna Hills, Laguna Niguel, Laguna Woods, Mission Viejo, Orange, Placentia, Seal Beach and Villa Park all have yet to get the final sign off from the state.
Huntington Beach has been the most vocal opponent of California’s housing mandates in recent months, suing the state and arguing that the goals they’ve been given for affordable housing are unrealistic.
The city of Orange also got into trouble with the state after they submitted a housing plan that was made up almost entirely of undevelopable land.
It comes as some residents and activists in cities throughout Orange County have been calling on local elected officials to enact rent control laws as the Golden State’s housing crisis worsens.
Earlier this year, a majority of Buena Park City Council members expressed support for some type of rent control ordinance.
And Santa Ana – OC’s first city to enact a citywide rent control ordinance – is dealing with a lawsuit from the OC Apartment Association over the law.
There’s also a police-union backed recall election, which organizers say is in-part fueled by Santa Ana’s rent control law.
The county submitted its first housing plan draft in October 2021 and a full plan last December, but the Department of Housing and Community Development said they needed to make more updates, adding that without an adopted plan there may be more consequences in the future.
“Ultimately, state housing laws are effective only with the cooperation of local governments,” wrote Melinda Coy, the Housing and Community Development Department’s Proactive Housing Accountability Chief in a letter to the county. “However, housing elements are essential to developing a blueprint for growth and are a vital tool to address California’s prolonged housing crisis.”
“HCD will consider any written response before taking further action,” Coy continued. “Including referral to the California Office of the Attorney General.”
In a follow-up letter, county CEO Frank Kim wrote that they were working hard to bring a plan into compliance.
“Hundreds of hours of staff time have been devoted to this important project,” Kim wrote. “We are pleased to report that the County is nearing the finish line and anticipates that a third draft will be ready for resubmission to HCD no later than July 31, 2023.”
The county is set to discuss the newest draft today at their Sept. 12 meeting.
Noah Biesiada is a Voice of OC reporter and corps member with Report for America, a GroundTruth initiative. Contact him at email@example.com or on Twitter @NBiesiada.
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