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The Housing Element

About the Housing Element

The Housing Element is one of the State-mandated components of the City’s General Plan. It offers a comprehensive strategy for the City to accommodate sufficient housing at all income levels. The Housing Element has two main purposes:

  • To provide an assessment of current and future housing needs for the next eight years.
  • To establish housing goals, policies, and programs that address housing needs, reduce barriers to housing development, and ensure compliance with State legislation.

The updated Housing Element must be certified by the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) by a pre-determined deadline, January 15, 2024.  

Click to view the Housing Element flyer (English)

Click to view the Housing Element flyer (Spanish)

What the Housing Element Includes

The Housing Element includes a strategy for the City to meet its share of the Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA).  HCD determines the total number of new housing units that each region must accommodate during the eight-year planning period. Through land use and zoning regulations, Bakersfield must plan for its share of the RHNA, including housing that is affordable to households at all income levels. 

The Housing Element update will assess how current demands are being met and will plan for projected housing needs over the next eight years. The Housing Element also addresses housing for special needs populations, such as persons with disabilities, very low-income residents, and persons experiencing homelessness. The City’s housing strategy must also reduce any identified barriers to equality and opportunity.  

The Housing Element update must include the following:

  • Community Needs Assessment: A complete analysis of the specific housing needs and an inventory of the resources and constraints relevant to addressing housing needs
  • Sites Inventory: An inventory of land suitable for residential development that could accommodate the City’s RHNA allocation
  • Constraints Analysis: an evaluation of governmental and nongovernmental barriers to housing production in Bakersfield
  • Goals, Policies, and Programs: Identification of specific policies and actions to implement the Housing Element
  • Other analyses, policies, and goals required to meet community housing needs, and/or comply with applicable State law

Upcoming Meetings

There are no upcoming events at this time.

Past Event Materials

July 2022

General Plan Online Visioning Workshop - July 12, 2022

June 2022

General Plan In-Person Visioning Workshop - June 22, 2022

General Plan Online Visioning Workshop - June 7, 2022

March 2022

Intro to the General Plan Workshop #1 & #2 - March 22-23, 2022

April 2022

Housing Element Update Study Session with City Council - April 22, 2022

Intro to the General Plan Workshop #3 - April 14, 2022

Housing Element FAQs

What is a Housing Element and what does it contain?

Since 1969, California has required all local governments to plan to meet the housing needs of everyone in the community through the development of a Housing Element, a component of the General Plan.

Per state law, the specific purposes of the Housing Element are to assess both current and future housing needs and constraints, and to establish housing goals, policies, and programs that provide a strategy for meeting the city’s housing needs.

The Housing Element is responsible for identifying a city’s existing and projected housing need; goals, policies, and quantified objectives on achieving housing for all economic segments of the population; available financial resources; scheduled programs for the preservation of housing and identification of adequate housing sites for all economic segments of the community, persons with special needs and emergency shelters.

When and why does the Housing Element need to be updated?

State law requires the Housing Element be updated every eight years to keep it up to date and accurate. The time from one update to the next is called a housing cycle. Bakersfield 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 (2024-2032).

Having an approved housing plan helps maintain local control over land-use decisions and makes Bakersfield eligible for grants to help fund infrastructure to support housing development and more.

What is the Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA)?

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 Kern County is $70,700 per year for a household of four. The draft RHNA for Bakersfield is 37,461 housing units. The final RHNA is anticipated July 2022.

Must cities build the housing required by RHNA?

While cities 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 8 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.

What makes a house affordable to an income group?

The foundation of Housing Element Law is based on the premise that density is a proxy for affordability. More housing units on a site (density) typically translates to lower construction costs per unit, which reduces the rental/sale prices of those units (affordability). Based on this, HCD assigns minimum density figures to each income category. In Kern County, HCD identified a zoning density of 20 dwelling units/acre least to be appropriate for the development of housing that can accommodate low-income households.

How will housing locations be selected?

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. Included in the City’s Housing Element is an inventory of the sites that shows where housing units can be accommodated. The sites must meet certain criteria and have potential for development during the eight-year planning period. Some of the sites identified may already allow housing that can accommodate a certain percentage of the RHNA income categories.

The City may establish criteria and eliminate sites based on the following:

  • Topography is not conducive to building
  • Sites are not safe because they are in a flood zone or high-fire area
  • Sites are in areas deemed off-limits by the airport because they are in the flight path or noise levels would be too high

Criteria to support additional housing may include:

  • Vacant lots not designated as open space
  • Underutilized sites, such as lots with uses or structures that are no longer needed or need rehabilitation
  • Locations where housing could become denser than it is today
  • Locations near public transit and essential services like neighborhood-serving retail centers
  • Sites where infrastructure, such as water and sewer service, can support more housing

Additionally, per the HCD Site Inventory Guidebook, sites best suited to accommodate the RHNA for lower-income households have access to a variety of resources and opportunities like proximity to transit, access to good schools, and other factors.

The City’s housing opportunity sites plan is also developed with input from residents during the housing element update process. The Housing Element will align with previous and ongoing planning efforts in the city, such as the General Plan Update and the Transformative Climate Communities Plan.

What about other important topics, like homelessness or the high cost of housing? Are those addressed too?

Yes. A housing element discusses issues, trends, and solutions for additional topics relevant to housing, including homelessness and high housing costs.

Related Regulations

State Legislation

Many new State housing laws relevant to this cycle’s update have been enacted since the current 5th cycle Housing Element was adopted and certified in 2016. The 6th cycle Housing Element update will incorporate and address pertinent housing law changes through analysis, new policies, or new programs. The relevant laws include:

Affordable Housing Streamlined Approval Process

Senate Bill (SB) 35 (2017), Assembly Bill (AB) 168, and AB 831 – These bills support a streamlined, ministerial review process for qualifying multifamily, urban infill projects in jurisdictions that have not approved housing projects sufficient to meet their state‐mandated RHNA.

Additional Housing Element Sites Analysis Requirements

AB 879 (2017) and AB 1397 (2017) – These bills require additional analysis and justification of the sites included in the site’s inventory of the City’s Housing Element.

Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing

AB 686 (2017) – AB 686 requires the City to administer its housing programs and activities in a manner to affirmatively further fair housing and not take any action that is inconsistent with this obligation.

No-Net-Loss Zoning

SB 166 (2017) – SB 166 amended the No‐Net‐Loss rule to require that the land inventory and site identification programs in the Housing Element include sufficient sites to accommodate the unmet RHNA. The Project sites inventory far exceeds the City’s RHNA, allowing for additional sites to be used for additional housing units as needed.

Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU)

AB 2299 (2016), SB 1069 (2016), AB 494 (2017), SB 229 (2017), AB 68 (2019), AB 881 (2019), AB 587 (2019), SB 13 (2019), AB 670 (2019), AB 671 (2019), and AB 3182 (2020) – The 2016 and 2017 updates to state law included changes pertaining to the allowed size of ADUs, permitting ADUs by right in at least some areas of jurisdiction, and limits on parking requirements related to ADUs. More recent bills reduce the time to review and approve ADU applications to 60 days, remove lot size requirements and replacement parking space requirements and require local jurisdictions to permit junior ADUs.

Density Bonus

AB 1763 (2019) and AB 2345 (2020) – AB 1763 amended California’s density bonus law to authorize significant development incentives to encourage 100 percent affordable housing projects, allowing developments with 100 percent affordable housing units to receive an 80 percent density bonus from the otherwise maximum allowable density on the site. AB 2345 created additional density bonus incentives for affordable housing units provided in a housing development project. It also requires that the annual report include information regarding density bonuses that were granted.

Housing Crisis Act of 2019

SB 330 – SB 330 enacts changes to local development policies, permitting, and processes that will be in effect through January 1, 2025.

Inclusionary Housing

California Assembly Bill 1505, enacted in 2017, authorized cities and counties to adopt inclusionary housing ordinances, which can require new residential development to include a certain percentage of residential rental units affordable to various households by income. Inclusionary housing can be a mandatory requirement or voluntary goal to reserve a certain percentage of housing units for lower-income households in new residential developments. Considerations for inclusionary housing programs may include inclusionary percentage (i.e., percentage of development dedicated for affordability), income levels targeted, alternatives to construction on-site, developer incentives, and length of affordability.

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