What is a Housing Element?

Since 1969, California has required that all local governments adequately plan to meet the housing needs of everyone in the community. The Housing Element is a State-mandated policy document within the General Plan that guides the implementation of various programs to meet future housing needs for residents of all income levels. The housing needs are determined through the Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA)—please see the “What is the RHNA?” section on this webpage. The Housing Element identifies available land that is suitable for housing development, as well goals, policies, and programs to accommodate the City’s housing need, provide opportunities for new housing, and preserve the existing housing stock.

Why update the Housing Element?

California Housing Element law requires that local jurisdictions update the Housing Element every eight years. These frequent updates are required because housing is critical to ensure economic prosperity and quality of life throughout the State. The update also helps to ensure that jurisdictions are responding to their residents’ changing needs. The revised Housing Element must be adopted by the La Cañada Flintridge City Council and submitted to HCD no later than October 15, 2021. Housing Elements must be certified (approved) by HCD as complying with State law. Jurisdictions that are not in compliance with Housing Element law could lose eligibility for significant sources of funding currently provided by the State and the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG). Noncomplying jurisdictions also run the risk of being sued by the State Attorney General.

What is included in a Housing Element?

Key components of the Housing Element include:

  • A demographic profile and analysis of population growth and trends in the community;
  • Identification and analysis of existing and projected housing needs for all economic segments of the community;
  • Identification of adequate sites that are zoned and available within the 8-year housing cycle to meet the city’s fair share of regional housing needs at all income levels, as prescribed by the RHNA;
  • An evaluation of local constraints or barriers to housing development as well as opportunities to develop housing; and
  • Housing goals, policies, quantified objectives and scheduled programs to preserve, improve and develop housing within the City.

Because the Housing Element is updated every eight years, the current 5th Cycle (2013–2021) Housing Element provides a foundation for this update. Please refer to the City’s current 5th Cycle (2013–2021) Housing Element for more information on existing goals, policies, and programs. It can be found at the following link:


What is the RHNA? (See also RHNA page)

RHNA stands for Regional Housing Needs Assessment. Every eight years, “housing need”—both the total number of units and the distribution of those units by affordability levels—is determined by the State of California Housing and Community Development (HCD) for the entire State. HCD then distributes this housing needs assessment to each regional planning body in California; this housing needs assessment is the amount of housing that must be planned for by each region. La Cañada Flintridge is located in the six-county[1] region administered by SCAG, which is the regional planning body for our area. SCAG takes the number of housing units it receives from the State housing needs assessment and allocates it to all jurisdictions in its planning area, including La Cañada Flintridge. This allocation is the RHNA.

To comply with State law, each jurisdiction’s Housing Element must be updated to ensure its policies and programs can accommodate its share of the number of housing units identified by the State. For the upcoming 6th Cycle Housing Element update, the City’s share of the RHNA is 612 units, divided among a range of income or affordability levels (based on Area Median Income, or AMI), as shown in the following table.

6th Cycle RHNA for La Cañada Flintridge

Income Category/Affordability Level* Number of Units Percent of Total Units
Very Low Income (0-50% of AMI) 251 41%
Low Income (50-80% of AMI) 135 22%
5Moderate Income (80-120% of AMI)
139 23%
September 4, 2020 85 14%
TOTAL UNITS 610 100%

*Income/affordability categories are grouped into the four categories shown in the table above; average median income (AMI) is the average household income for each Metropolitan Statistical Area. The AMI for Los Angeles County is currently $77,300.

Does RHNA require jurisdictions to build housing?

Through the Housing Element update process, the City must show that it has the regulatory and land use policies to accommodate its assigned RHNA. Local governments are not required to build the housing—the actual development of housing is typically done by for-profit and non-profit developers. However, the Housing Element is required to demonstrate potential sites where housing can be accommodated to meet all the income levels of a jurisdiction’s RHNA. Identification of a site’s capacity does not guarantee that construction will occur on that site. If there are insufficient sites and capacity to meet the RHNA allocation, the Housing Element is required to identify a rezoning program to accommodate the required capacity. As previously noted, if the City does not identify capacity for its RHNA allocation, the City could be deemed out of compliance and risk losing important sources of funding currently provided by the State as well as facing legal challenges. For more information about RHNA, please visit the SCAG website here: https://scag.ca.gov/rhna

What is the schedule to complete the Housing Element?

As required by State law, the Housing Element must be adopted by the La Cañada Flintridge City Council and submitted to the State no later than October 15, 2021.  This was done and we received comments back on December 3, 2021.  The second draft is scheduled to be submitted to the State on September 14, 2022.

How is the Housing Element implemented?

The Housing Element sets goals, objectives, policies, and programs that are implemented after the plan is adopted. When a new housing program, project, or idea is considered, the Housing Element provides guidance for decision-makers to evaluate the proposal.

What is the relationship to other Elements of the General Plan?

The Housing Element must remain consistent with the other elements of the General Plan. This may require amendments to certain elements, most often the Land Use Element. New State legislation requires that the City update the Safety Element at the same time as the Housing Element. The updated Safety Element will be adopted concurrently with the Housing Element.