California Massively Increased the Amount of Housing the Bay Area Has To Allow. YIMBY Lawsuit Says ‘Eh, Could Be More.’
In a man-bites-dog story for the ages, California activists are suing the state for planning for too little housing.
On Thursday, the pro-housing development groups YIMBY Action and YIMBY Law filed a petition in the Superior Court of California, County of Alameda, against the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD), arguing that the department failed to consider the Bay Area’s imbalance between jobs and housing when determining how many new homes the region has to plan for.
That failure to consider the jobs-housing balance, their petition claims, violates state laws and has resulted in HCD giving the Bay Area a planning quota that’s short over 100,000 homes.
“It’s not that HCD is even trying to pick a jobs-housing balance and trying to get us to something that’s better than the status quo. They’re just leaving it out altogether,” says Sonja Trauss, YIMBY Law’s executive director. “They have to at least consider it. They have to open that political pandora’s box.”
Understanding what’s at stake in the YIMBY groups’ lawsuit requires some background on the exceptionally bureaucratic, acronym-heavy Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) process by which the state government hands down housing production goals to California’s metropolitan regions.
Every eight years, HCD gives the state’s regional government councils—which in the Bay Area is the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG)—a quota for how many new housing units they’re projected to need. Regional governments like ABAG then divide up that regional quota among local governments. These local governments are then required to change their zoning laws to accommodate however many units the state and regional governments are saying they need.
Government agencies determining needs, setting quotas, and handing down plans is no free marketer’s dream. At the same time, this RHNA process is the main way by which California’s state government can force localities to loosen zoning laws that prevent developers and property owners from building housing where the market
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