By Caroline Nowacki, Marketing Coordinator at M-Group
In the context of reduced budgets at all levels of governments, the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) offers a new procedure, the Streamlined Update Process, designed to save money and time for California cities. While the Streamlined Approach is relatively new to the Bay Area, it has been used in Southern California and HCD has already published several guidance documents online to clarify the process for City staff and consultants.
Major Benefits: a 60-day priority review by HCD
One of the Streamlined Update’s major benefits is that HCD intends to review draft Housing Elements in less than 60 days, and grant priority to jurisdictions using this process. HCD published guidance documents and templates to provide clarity on the necessary contents and steps for updating a Housing Element. The process and templates are also designed to reduce the number and scope of housing element submittals per jurisdictions.
Cities eligible to use this process will be able to save time and money thanks to simpler data gathering and documentation, and a shortened HCD review period.
A Streamlined Update template for specific areas of the Housing Element
The streamlined update template clearly indicates the necessary steps of the update, and highlights the differences between the previous and the new Housing Element. This template is designed to make it easier and faster for HCD to review updated Housing Elements, and to help Cities focus on the important changes needed.
- The Streamlined Update template is applicable to the following areas:
- Sites Inventory and Analysis
- Analysis of Governmental and Non-Governmental Constraints
- Housing Needs Assessment, including special needs groups (excluding the quantification and analysis of homeless individuals and families)
- Units At-Risk of Conversion to Market Rate
- General Plan Consistency
- Coastal Zone Housing
The Streamlining does not apply to Public Participation, Programs and Quantified Objectives, as well as new Statutory Requirements. If the previous Housing Needs Assessment was completed before 2010, it was almost certainly based on 2000 Census Data, and will need to be updated to utilize 2010 Census data. Current market data on rental and sales information also need to be obtained for an updated assessment.
It is important to note that the Housing Element Update will need to pass the Implementation Review in order to qualify for the streamlined review. To be eligible, Cities will need to have an adopted and certified 2009-2014 Housing Element Update, and completed Zoning amendments pertaining to the following issues:
- Reasonable Accommodation Ordinance or Procedure,
- Inclusion of definition of SRO and Transitional/Supportive Housing and locations where they are allowed by right,
- Identification of Zoning District for Emergency Shelters and locations where they are allowed by right,
- Density Bonus Ordinance, and
- Any rezoning needed to fulfill RHNA requirements.
Procedures, Documents and Communication with HCD
To use the Streamlined Update process, Housing Element updates will involve submitting a completed update to HCD showing all changes from the previous element, completeness checklist, and streamlined update template. Public comments are considered part of this review. HCD will not review areas that have not changed since the last Housing Element cycle.
Communicating with HCD early in the project and regularly during the Housing Element update will remain critical to ensure early buy-in, avoid surprises, and ensure a fast review and adoption of the Housing Element update.
M-Group Housing Element Experience
In the 2009-2014 Housing Element cycle, M-Group prepared or managed Housing Element updates for 12 cities in the Bay Area, including the Cities of Sonoma, Sausalito, Belvedere, Santa Clara and Burlingame. This planning effort encompassed more than 15,000 housing units. We have built a strong working relationship with HCD and are familiar with its rules and procedures. We fully understand the Streamlined Update Process and can help Cities benefit from the savings in money and time that this procedure offers. We use the best practices learned from past projects, and customize our approach to the City’s desired direction and the community’s unique character.