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State housing mandates put cities like Mission Viejo in a pickle


With millions of new homes required under state housing mandates, Sacramento is putting Southern California cities in a pickle.

Every eight years, Sacramento determines how much housing the 6-county Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) region – consisting of 197 jurisdictions including Mission Viejo – must accept.

This mandate is called the Regional Housing Needs Allocation or RHNA, created by Sacramento to increase statewide housing production. Every city is “assigned” a mandated number of very low-income, low-income, moderate-income and market-rate housing units. Cities that don’t reach their required allocations become at risk for losing state funding and incurring penalties as well as litigation.  

The California Department of Housing and Community Development recently released the latest RHNA requirements for 2021 to 2029, requiring the construction of 1.341 million new housing units in Southern California including Orange, Imperial, Los Angeles, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura Counties. This is a 300 percent increase over what the state mandated in the last 2013 to 2021 RHNA cycle.

SCAG is charged with developing a plan for how those 1.341 million housing units will be distributed to each of the 197 jurisdictions in its region. To help with that planning process, SCAG established a RHNA subcommittee, which includes Council Member Wendy Bucknum as Orange County’s primary representative.

“RHNA is a challenging state mandate for both SCAG and our local jurisdictions,” Council Member Bucknum said. “It is the state that determines, without regard for a city’s circumstances, how much housing we as a region and then on a city level must plan for, and it’s the state that has enacted recent housing legislation changes that make our jobs even more difficult as we try to plan for housing that respects our local communities.”

The method used for allocating housing units equitably and in compliance with RHNA is critical to each city. Based on a public comment period, testimony and hearings, SCAG developed a proposed RHNA plan that includes elements linking housing to jobs; housing near bus and rail transit; and it considers each city’s adopted vision of future growth.

The recommendations will go to SCAG’s governing board for a vote on November 7, and if approved, to the state for the required 60-day review.

“The new methodology removes a one-size-fits-all approach that was based solely on population factors and better respects each local jurisdiction’s vision for future growth, known as Local Input,” Council Member Bucknum said. “But this only works if the state will not exercise remote command and control over our local decisions.”


Submitted by Eric Lewis on Wed, 11/06/2019 - 10:08 pm


Have you considered revising the city's guidelines on "granny flats" to move closer to the new state recommendations? Last I checked there were still serious limitations on square footage, familial relationship of occupants, etc. I would prefer to see a additional units scattered widely in the city rather than a few high-density developments.

Submitted by City Staff on Thu, 11/07/2019 - 11:00 am


Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts on this matter. The City is actually working on an Ordinance to address Accessory Dwelling Units (or granny flats,) in compliance with state law. The draft Ordinance went before the Planning and Transportation Commission earlier this year, and is currently submitted for review by the State Department of Housing and Community Development.

Submitted by Baaty on Thu, 11/07/2019 - 8:00 pm


This bill passed by the state wasn’t thought through by the politicians that’s singed it. Allowing two more units per lot will have serious impacts to the safety of neighborhood with more cars in the street. Can the cities infrastructure handle the demand?

Can the sewer systems handle 3 more bathrooms per lot probably not. What about electricity demands and SCE provide electricity with their infrastructure in place.

Cities have zoning ordinances for a reason which help plan out and develop the city over time. Zoning helps regulate house retail commercial open space and parks and so on. Removing zoning will put a huge strain on every city. Infrastructures will have to be upgraded to handle this demand which means higher taxes. The taxes in CA are already one of the highest in the National do you really want more taxes to pay for this bill?

I’m in the building industry and you would think I would be for this but I’m not. It’s a terrible lead and it will not realize the housing crisis.

Submitted by Wendy Adams on Thu, 11/07/2019 - 9:44 pm


I find it concerning that I had to become a detective to uncover the following.

The state dictates the new housing requirements for cities for future growth correct? All new building should meet the state requirements. Pre established commercial zones should not be changed to high density, low income/lower income housing without the residents being informed. Established businesses will loose their location and clients. Neighborhoods will loose their proximity to support local shopping and loose their property values. Our property taxes fund many perks that make Mission Viejo a much desired city in which to reside. What can be done? Is there a meeting to attend or a petition to sign? I have lived in Mission Viejo for 32 years and raised our family here. We want our voices heard! You, as elected servants for the people of Mission Viejo should feel compelled to notify the constituents, of these extreme changes. No one likes to be uninformed! I propose that a monthly/biweekly mailer be sent to residents that will contain a brief summary of issues and meetings, along with an address to locate the articles in more detail.

Submitted by Kimberly A Nugent on Fri, 11/08/2019 - 1:01 am


The city needs more than proposed granny flats for low income families. There are younger residents that live in the city with children as well. At this time to my knowledge there are only two communities that accept Section 8 housing. The other listed communities are senior or have a waiting list that never opens up. The cost of housing these days makes even decent paid earners considered low income. MV is not a friendly city to low income in my opinion.

Submitted by Doug Harding on Fri, 11/08/2019 - 6:37 am


As a point of history, what has Mission Viejo done regarding very low and low income type housing ? Many cities have not provided for this need. This is the reason Sacramento is mandating this requirement.

Submitted by Doug Harding on Fri, 11/08/2019 - 7:43 am


As Mission Viejo is part of SCAG, what number has RHNA assigned to MV related to very low income, low income, moderate income and market-rate housing units ? How have we strived to meet that request ?

Submitted by City Staff on Fri, 11/08/2019 - 11:21 am


Draft numbers for all the jurisdictions should be released by SCAG in early 2020, after the methodology is reviewed by the State and SCAG's governing bodies consider the State HCD comments and approve the final methodology on how to allocate housing units to each jurisdiction in the six-county SCAG region.

Submitted by City Staff on Fri, 11/08/2019 - 1:56 pm


The City has a fully compliant Housing Element, certified by the State Department of Housing & Community Development in Sacramento. Further, the City is well on the way to meeting its Regional Housing Need Assessment number for the current housing element cycle (2014-2021) including the low and very low-income units. Low and very low housing income units were developed at The Ridge, Adagio on the Green, and the Los Alisos Apartments. Most recently in June of this year, the City approved a new Shea housing development on Los Alisos Boulevard, with 15 % of the units to be low and very low income. Also, next Monday (November 11, 2019) the Planning and Transportation Commission will consider another housing project, City Lane, again with 15% of the proposed units being for low and very low-income residents. The City has other affordable housing projects, including the Arroya Vista Apartments and the Heritage Villas apartments on Oso Parkway, but as noted, this overview is only for the current housing element cycle of 2014-2021.

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