In a word, density. The foundation of State’s Housing Element Law is based on the premise that density is a proxy for affordability. The idea being, the more housing units on a site (density) translates to lower construction costs per unit, which translates to lower rental/sale prices of those units (affordability). Based on this, California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) assigns minimum density figures to each income category. In Marina, HCD identified a zoning density of least 20 dwelling units per acre to be appropriate for the development of housing that can accommodate low-income households.
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State law requires regular updates to the Housing Element to ensure relevancy and accuracy. These updates are currently required every eight years. The time from one update to the next is called a housing cycle. Marina is currently in the 5th housing cycle that began in 2015 and will end in 2023. The upcoming 6th Housing Element cycle will cover the next eight-year planning period (2023-2031).
Having an approved housing plan helps make Marina eligible for grants to help fund infrastructure to support housing development and more.
The RHNA decides the number of residential units the city must plan for in the Housing Element. The RHNA identifies the number of residential units required for each economic income segment, which includes very-low, low, moderate, and above-moderate incomes. The calculation of income levels is based on Area Median Income (AMI), which for Marina is $73,115 per year for a household of four.
While cities and counties do not generally build housing – that is the function of private developers – they do adopt plans, regulations and programs that provide opportunities for how and where housing development occurs. Although the Housing Element identifies sites that are available in the city to plan for future housing, it does not mean the property owner is required to build the housing within the next eight years or any time in the future. Rather, the City is required to identify sites that are suitable for development and may implement programs to support housing development.
The updated housing plan must show the exact locations where future housing can be built and identify the potential number of homes that can be built at those locations. The City’s Housing Element will include an inventory of the sites that are compliant with current legislation and shows where housing units can be accommodated. The sites must be vacant or underutilized and have potential for development during the eight-year planning period. Some of the sites identified may be already zoned for housing that can accommodate a certain percentage of the RHNA income categories.
The City may establish criteria and eliminate sites based on the following:
Criteria to support housing on sites may include:
Per the HCD Site Inventory Guidebook, sites best suited to accommodate the RHNA for lower income households should include factors such as: