California Sues Huntington Beach for Rejecting Parts of Statewide Housing Plan 

Huntington Beach

California Gov. Gavin Newsom and Attorney General Rob Bonta accused the City of Huntington Beach in a lawsuit of violating the statewide Housing Elements Law after local officials twice refused to adopt certain permitting and development requirements.

The lawsuit was initially filed in March and amended on April 10. It alleges that Huntington Beach officials violated state law by prohibiting accessory dwelling units and some development projects that allow homeowners to turn single-family home lots into multifamily buildings, known colloquially as “SB9 applications.”

Huntington Beach’s city council has since rescinded the ordinances, potentially making the complaint moot. However, the state’s amendment seeks to prevent the city from re-instating similar legislation in the future.

“Huntington Beach continues to fail its residents,” Governor Newsom said in a press release. “Every city and county needs to do their part to bring down the high housing and rent costs that are impacting families across this state. California will continue taking every step necessary to ensure everyone is building their fair share of housing and not flouting state housing laws at the expense of the community.”

Every City and County Must ‘Adequately Plan’ to Meet Local Housing Needs

According to the Department of Housing and Community Development, California’s Housing Elements laws require every city and county government in the state to “adequately plan” to meet their local housing needs. The law has been amended multiple times since it was first passed in 1969. Some of the most recent amendments have caused a stir between affordable housing advocates and elected officials in at least a dozen cities nationwide.

Local officials like Huntington city council member Casey McKeon have consistently argued that they should retain control over local land use policies instead of the state. State officials have argued that California’s shortage of affordable homes has become a matter of statewide concern.

“This fight means everything to our residents’ local control and good quality of life,” McKeon said at a recent meeting. “This needs to be adjudicated in the courts.”

Overall, California has a shortage of about 1.3 million affordable housing units for people earning up to 30% of an area’s median income. Moreover, 78% of California’s renters earning up to 30% of an area’s median income are rent burdened, the fourth-highest total in the nation.

According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, a person is considered rent burdened when they pay one-third or more of their income on rent and utilities.

The Los Angeles metro area had one of the lowest concentrations of affordable homes in the state, with just 20 homes per 100 renter households.

Huntington Beach Wastes Time and Money Instead of Finding Housing Solutions

While the Housing Elements law has been described generally as an important tool for building affordable housing, it has been particularly impactful in increasing the share of units available for low-income earners and those most at risk of experiencing homelessness.

Gustavo Velasquez, director of Housing and Community Development, said the Housing Elements laws could help local officials utilize tax dollars to solve complex problems around housing and homelessness.

“More housing is the path to ending and reducing homelessness, but Huntington Beach continues to brazenly violate state housing laws–wasting valuable time and tax-payer money instead of working on solutions,” Velasquez said.

How You Can Help

The pandemic proved that we need to rethink housing in the U.S. It also showed that aid programs work when agencies and service organizations are provided with sufficient funds and clear guidance on spending aid dollars.

Contact your officials and representatives. Tell them you support keeping many of the pandemic-related aid programs in place for future use. They have proven effective at keeping people housed, which is the first step to ending homelessness.

Robert Davis

Robert Davis

Robert is a freelance journalist based in Colorado who covers housing, police, and local government.

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