CA approves plan to accommodate more than 400K Bay Area homes

Photo of a construction site
Ganesh Pimpale/Staff
The Regional Housing Needs Allocation, which plans to accommodate 8,934 units in the city of Berkeley, requires each local jurisdiction to plan for its portion of the Bay Area’s housing needs.

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The California Department of Housing and Community Development, or HCD, approved a plan to accommodate 441,176 new housing units in the Bay Area on Jan. 12, including 8,934 units in the city of Berkeley.

The eight-year plan, called the Regional Housing Needs Allocation, or RHNA, requires each local jurisdiction to plan for its portion of the Bay Area’s housing needs. It was approved in December by the Association of Bay Area Governments, or ABAG.

“(The RHNA) is perhaps the most critical mechanism to hold municipalities accountable to our need for new housing development,” said Berkeley City Councilmember Rigel Robinson in an email. “This process is a critical opportunity to turn the tide against our housing and homelessness crises.”

According to ABAG spokesperson Leah Zippert, the RHNA is a five-decade-old state-mandated process that requires local governments to plan for residents’ housing needs. Bay Area governments are required to demonstrate that enough new housing can be built, she noted.

Objectives of the RHNA include equity, sustainability and efficiency of development, Zippert added. The plan specifies that about 40% of the new units in both Berkeley and the Bay Area will be for low and very low-income residents, who are those making less than 80% of the median income.

According to an ABAG document, changes from previous RHNA processes include accounting for unmet existing needs, affirmatively furthering fair housing and greater HCD oversight of each region’s allocations.

Since the previous RHNA plan, adopted in 2013, the proportion of units reserved for low and very low-income residents increased by 10 percentage points in Berkeley. The current plan also more than tripled the total unit requirement in Berkeley.

“This number is much higher than the previous cycle as we get serious on addressing the decades of underproduction that has contributed to the housing affordability crisis,” said Berkeley Mayor and ABAG President Jesse Arreguín in an email. “One challenge that we face, which is mirrored across cities in the region, is meeting the allocation for below market rate housing.”

Arreguín noted that the city had recently produced 800 units of affordable housing, crediting the increase to funds such as Measure O. He added that he is considering options for a bond measure to secure funding to accelerate the building of affordable housing.

Robinson noted that increasing density, ending exclusionary zoning and a “massive” amount of student housing would be necessary to satisfy the RHNA plan. He also encouraged public input to the process at a city housing element update workshop Jan. 27.

“For the whole region, transit-rich cities like us at the core of the bay area have a duty to step up and plan for sustainable, equitable growth,” Robinson said in the email.

Gabe Classon is a schools and communities reporter. Contact him at [email protected], and follow him on Twitter at @gabeclasson.