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Housing Element Questions and Answers

Town of Hillsborough
Housing Element of the General Plan
Questions and Answers
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Can the RHN be met within Hillsborough’s General Plan, Zoning Ordinance, and tradition of one house per lot?
It has to date. If not, HCD will expect the town to amend the General Plan and Zoning Ordinance to facilitate development of the homes. However, the Government Code recognizes “that the total housing needs identified … may exceed available resources and the community’s ability to satisfy this need within the content of the general plan requirements…. Under these circumstances, the quantified objectives need not be identical to the total housing needs. [Rather, t]he quantified objectives shall establish the maximum number of housing units by income category, including extremely low income, that can be constructed … over a five-year time period.” Govt. Code §65583(b)(2).

How will Hillsborough address requirements of the law and the RHNA?
Since 2003, the Town has been able to meet State requirements and retain the single-family character of the community by encouraging the construction of second units—as opposed to rezoning some areas for higher density/multi-family housing. State law permits HCD, in evaluating a proposed housing element, to allow the Town to identify sites for second units based on the number of second units actually developed in the prior housing element planning period. Govt. Code §65583.1(a). To demonstrate that second units are affordable housing, the Town proposed to collect information on new second unit proposals to determine their general use (i.e., for rent, family, etc.), rent range if applicable, number of bedrooms, and size.

What are the requirements for emergency shelter for the homeless?
State law requires that the Town provide an area within the community for emergency shelter for the homeless to meet the Town’s homeless needs. A one-night Countywide census on January 30, 2007, found 16 homeless people in Hillsborough. An extended field survey by the Town’s Police Department on four nights and early mornings, September 22-24 and October 1-3, 2008, could find no homeless people within the town limits. While there is no requirement for the Town to construct an emergency shelter for the homeless, the Town must designate an area where such a use is permitted and determine the specific need (number of beds).  State Law allows the Town to develop standards relating to controls on operating hours, number of beds, parking, length of stay, lighting, security, etc. The Housing Element Steering Committee concluded that the most appropriate way to meet the emergency shelter requirements is to designate the former fire station within the Civic Center/Town Hall area for such a development. See article on homelessness:  http://www.shelternetwork.org/diduknow.html

What are the requirements for transitional and supportive housing?
This housing offers assisted living for purposes of improving the health status and long term self-sufficiency of low income persons who are, or are at risk of becoming, homeless. State law (which supersedes local law) requires all local jurisdictions to allow transitional and supportive facilities as permitted uses in the same manner and under the same provisions under which single-family residential uses are allowed.

What is Hillsborough’s RHNA?
Hillsborough agreed to a share of the regional housing need of 86 units for the period 2007-2014 (compared to 84 units for the prior housing element). The units fall into the following household gross income categories established by HUD and the State of California, 2007:


Extremely low income (up to $33,930/year):         10 units

Very low income (up to $56,550):                        10 units

Low income ($56,550 - $90,500):                        14 units

Moderate income ($90,500 - $114,000):               16 units

Above moderate income (above $114,000):          36 units

The Housing Element must assure that land is zoned and available to accommodate the 86 additional housing units by July 1, 2014. The element also will need to continue existing Town housing programs that facilitate the provision of units for households other than those with “above moderate” incomes. There is no mandate that the Town or developers build the units. However, the Housing Element must demonstrate that Hillsborough’s assigned and accepted share of the RHNA goals can reasonably be met by 2014.

What is the Housing Element?
 All cities and counties in California must prepare general plans and keep them up to date. The Hillsborough General Plan — which except for the Housing Element was updated and adopted in 2005 — sets the basic ground rules for all future development in the town. The Plan looks ahead 20 years and is the community’s most important planning document. The Housing Element is one of the required elements of the Town’s General Plan, but looks ahead only five to seven years. It was last updated in 2002. The other General Plan elements are Land Use, Circulation, Open Space and Conservation, Noise, and Public Safety.

What is the RHNA?
The intent of the RHNA is to plan for a wide range of housing affordability across all communities in the state. First, HCD determines the housing needed to accommodate projected growth in each region of the state for the established time period. Then the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) assigns a share of the anticipated regional housing need (RHN) to each jurisdiction in the Bay Area. In that manner, Hillsborough received its allocations for past Housing Element updates. In 2007, however, Hillsborough joined San Mateo County and its cities to use a provision in the law that allowed formation of a subregional organization to accept the county’s RHN from ABAG and distribute the subregional need across the county’s 20 cities and its unincorporated areas. Members of the City/County Association of Governments of San Mateo County (C/CAG) agreed on and assigned the subregional distribution of housing need to each of the 20 cities and the County.

What is the time frame for meeting the RHNA?
The timeframe for fulfilling the RHNA is July 1, 2007, through June 30, 2014 — a seven-year planning period. Units constructed since June 30, 2007 may be counted toward meeting the current RHNA.

What must the Housing Element cover?
State Law specifies what must be included in the Housing Element. It should identify and analyze existing and projected housing needs; list the goals, policies, quantified objectives, and action programs for the preservation, improvement, and development of housing; identify adequate sites for housing, including transitional and supportive housing to serve low income individuals; and make adequate provision for the existing and projected housing needs of all economic segments of the community, including provision of an area within the community for an emergency shelter to house any homeless persons in Hillsborough. The Housing Element must also demonstrate that it addresses the Regional Housing Need Allocation (RHNA). RHNA, transitional housing, and emergency shelter are each covered in turn, below.

Why update the Housing Element?
State law requires that every City and County update its Housing element every five years or so. Hillsborough’s current Housing element was adopted in 2002 to cover a State-established period of seven-and-a half years from 1999-2006. All jurisdictions in the Bay Area are currently revising their Housing Elements for the upcoming five-year period, 2009-2014. The elements must be adopted and filed with the State Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) by July 1, 2009. HCD has established standards by which it reviews and certifies Housing Elements, and the elements must be submitted for a 60-day HCD review before being submitted to the City council for adoption.


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