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City of San Diego Housing Element officially approved by HCD

San Diego has made significant progress in making housing more affordable and accessible including flexibility of ADU zoning regulations, waiving fees, and developing an ADU handbook. Between 2016-2019, building permits were issued for 639 ADUs, 254 of which were constructed. 

San Diego Housing Element report ADUs constructed graph

Graph From San Diego Housing Element Report

The City is planning on continuing with this progress and recently received approval from the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) for their 6th update of the Housing Element of their General Plan. The San Diego City Council adopted the updates for the 2021-2029 Housing Element in the summer of 2020, adopted revisions in June 2021, and received HCD approval in September of 2021. 

The 5th Housing Element Cycle focused on removing barriers to affordable housing by making ADUs allowable by right, providing more information to homeowners, and streamlining the permitting process. As a result of these efforts and because of the 2020 state law, ADU construction increased throughout the city. Despite this, new affordable homes built for the 5th cycle were still below the Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) goals with the City meeting just over half of the total needed housing units for all categories except moderately affordable houses. 

The City’s 6th Housing Element is focused on increasing development of ADU and JADU units as well. HCD feedback regarding the process suggested that the city needs to conduct a biennial vacant land inventory to track land use changes on non-vacant sites since that accounts for ~50% of their regional housing need allocation (RHNA) for lower-income households. The Department also noted that the City’s approach to furthering fair housing had a lack of measurable actions  and that the city needed better measurements for effectiveness monitoring. 

San Diego will now likely be required to change other elements of their General Plan as they rely on the Housing Element. Cities are required to adequately plan for projected growth and incentivize the development of affordable housing. Some of these incentives include making access to certain grant funds reliant on a compliant Housing Element such as the CalTrans Senate Bill (SB) 1 Sustainable Communities grant and HCD’s Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities programs.

Read more about San Diego ADU construction regulations here.