State will file first-of-its-kind lawsuit against a city, Huntington Beach, for willfully standing in violation of state housing law
Governor Newsom: “California’s housing crisis is an existential threat to our state’s future and demands an urgent and comprehensive response”
SACRAMENTO — Governor Gavin Newsom announced today that the state is taking first-of-its-kind legal action against a city for standing in the way of affordable housing production and refusing to meet regional housing needs — local actions that harm California families’ ability to find affordable places to live and drive up housing costs for everyone. The Governor approved legal action against the City of Huntington Beach for willfully refusing to comply with state housing law, even after extensive attempts to offer partnership and support from the California Department of Housing and Community Development. The Attorney General will file suit against the city today.
Californians spend more of their income on housing costs than residents of almost any other place in America, and demographic data shows these huge costs are driving families further away from their jobs, and often out of the state. Meanwhile, a number of recent studies have warned that the state’s tight housing market will constrain future economic growth and deepen economic inequality.
“The state doesn’t take this action lightly, “said Governor Newsom. “The huge housing costs and sky-high rents are eroding quality of life for families across this state. California’s housing crisis is an existential threat to our state’s future and demands an urgent and comprehensive response.”
In his first budget, Governor Newsom proposed extraordinary support and assistance for cities to create the conditions for new housing production and help meet local housing needs. His budget allocates $500 million for incentives for cities that allow for new housing production and $250 million to provide technical assistance for cities to responsibly ramp up zoning and permitting processes. The Governor’s budget also includes another $1 billion in other funding for housing construction.
“Cities and counties are important partners in addressing this housing crisis, and many cities are making herculean efforts to meet this crisis head on,” said Governor Newsom. “But some cities are refusing to do their part to address this crisis and willfully stand in violation of California law. Those cities will be held to account.”
California cities and counties are required by law to draft and adopt a housing plan that meets the needs of the broader region and its economy. Under law, the city’s housing plan must accommodate a fair share of the regional housing needs and provide zoning that encourages development of housing that is affordable to the city’s residents across all income levels, including affordable housing and middle-income housing.
In 2015, the Department of Housing and Community Development, the agency charged with tracking cities’ progress in meeting these housing goals, found Huntington Beach’s housing plan was out of compliance with state law. After adopting a plan that met state standards in 2013, the city amended their housing plan and significantly reduced the number of new housing units able to be built — moving the city out of compliance with state housing law. Despite the Department of Housing and Community Development’s repeated efforts to work with Huntington Beach to bring its housing plan into compliance, the city council ultimately rejected a proposed amendment to build additional units.
The state’s complaint against Huntington Beach seeks to ensure housing equity, requiring the city to amend its housing plan to bring it into compliance with state law by planning for the development of additional housing units that are accessible to residents of all income levels.
AB 72, which took effect January 1, 2018, allows the state to revoke a city or county’s existing housing plan compliance and to refer potential cases to the state Attorney General’s Office for litigation. The suit against Huntington Beach will be the first such case.