Housing Element Update

As a required component of the City’s General Plan, the Housing Element implements the declaration of State law that “the availability of housing is a matter of vital statewide importance and the attainment of decent housing and a suitable living environment for all Californians is a priority of the highest order” (Gov. § Code 65580). At the local level, the Housing Element allows each city to prepare a community-specific approach to “how” and “where” housing will be addressed to meet the needs of the community. Pasadena is required to update the Housing Element every eight years to support continued progress toward meeting diverse community housing needs and to address regional housing production targets. The current Housing Element update program will cover the period from 2021 through 2029.

All California cities and counties are required to provide capacity for their share of existing and future regional housing need. Every eight years, this assignment is determined through the Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) process. The California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) determines the share of the state’s housing need for each region based off population projections prepared by the California Department of Finance and other factors identified in recent housing legislation. In turn, the council of governments (COG) for the region allocates to each local jurisdiction its share of the regional housing need. In southern California, the region’s COG is the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG). Pasadena’s RHNA allocation for the 2021-2029 planning period is 9,429 new residential units.

About the Housing Element


What are the Required Sections of the Housing Element?

According to Government Code Section 65583, a Housing Element must contain:

  • A Needs Assessment: An analysis of the City’s demographic and housing characteristics and trends, including the number of people living in overcrowded housing, households paying more for their housing than they can sustainably afford, people with special housing needs, and affordable units at risk of converting to market rate

  • Constraints to Housing Development: A review of the potential market, governmental, nongovernmental, environmental, and infrastructure constraints to the production of housing.

  • Resources and Sites Inventory: An evaluation of resources available to address Pasadena’s share of regional housing needs (see discussion of the Regional Housing Needs Assessment on the Identifying Housing Sites tab).

  • Progress Toward Implementing 2013-2021 Housing Element: An evaluation of progress implementing programs in the previous Housing Element.

  • A Housing Plan that includes housing goals, policies, and programs to support and encourage the production of housing for a variety of income categories and special needs groups, ensure equal housing opportunity, and preserve and improve the existing housing stock.

To address these requirements, the Housing Element is generally organized with the assessment of housing needs, summary of constraints, inventory of resources, and progress in the implementation of the existing Housing Element shaping the City’s housing goals, policies, and specific actions in the Housing Plan.

Are Housing Elements Required to be Updated?

Per State law, the Housing Element must be approved by the Pasadena City Council by October 15, 2021, although a 90-day grace period is allowed. What happens if the City delays adoption or chooses not to meet all requirements of State law and in particular, the need to identify sufficient sites to accommodate over 9,400 new residential units?

Housing Element non-compliance and not meeting RHNA requirements may bring about a number of consequences for a local jurisdiction. A city with a non-certified Housing Element has limited access to state funding programs, including CDBG funds, HOME Investment Partnership Program funds, and the newly established Senate Bill 2 and Assembly Bill 101 State planning grants to assist local jurisdictions with policies and programs to accelerate housing production. A city with a non-certified Housing Element also opens itself up for litigation. Several potential consequences of lawsuits include:

  • Mandatory compliance – The court may order the community to bring the Housing Element into compliance within 120 days.
  • Suspension of local control on building matters – The court may suspend the locality’s authority to issue building permits or grant zoning changes, variances, or subdivision map approvals.
  • Court approval of housing developments – The court may step in and approve housing projects, including large projects that the local community may not want.

Recent legislation, such as AB 72, authorizes HCD to find a jurisdiction out of compliance with state housing law at any time. HCD now has the authority to review any action or inaction by a city or county that it determines is inconsistent with an adopted housing element and can decide to decertify a Housing Element.

Further, recent legislation now also considers the progress that a city or county is making toward their RHNA allocations. Specifically, SB 35 includes project streamlining provisions, including ministerial approval, for jurisdictions who have not made sufficient progress toward their RHNA allocation.

2021-2029 Housing Element


The Housing Element allows each city to prepare a community-specific approach to “how” and “where” housing will be addressed to meet the needs of the community. The detailed statutory requirements for preparing a housing element are contained in the California Government Code (sections 65580–65589.8). At a minimum, a jurisdiction’s Housing Element must include: an assessment of current and future housing needs; an analysis of potential constraints that affect the development, maintenance, and improvement of housing; an inventory of resources available to address the City’s housing need; an evaluation of current housing programs and accomplishments; and a series of goals, policies, and scheduled programs to further the development, improvement, and preservation of housing.

The following draft chapters of the 2021-2029 Housing Element were developed and prepared to respond to community feedback, to continue functioning housing policies and programs, and to address new State legislation, including requirements of the Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA).

Draft Pasadena 2021-2029 Housing Element
HCD Comment Letter on Pasadena's Draft 2021-2029 Housing Element - 2021-10-11

Housing Needs & RHNA


What is the Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA)?

The Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) is a process that determines projected and existing housing need for all jurisdictions in California during a specified planning period. The process to determine the RHNA allocation for the southern California region is conducted by the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG). Every jurisdiction must plan for its RHNA allocation in its Housing Element by ensuring there is enough sites and zoning to accommodate their RHNA allocation.

As part of the RHNA process, SCAG developed a RHNA methodology, which determines each local jurisdiction’s RHNA allocation as a share of the regional determination of 1,341,827 housing unit need as determined by the State Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD). SCAG’s RHNA methodology furthers the five statutory objectives of RHNA:

  1. Increasing the housing supply and mix of housing types, tenure and affordability within each region in an equitable manner;
  2. Promoting infill development and socioeconomic equity, the protection of environmental and agricultural resources, and the encouragement of efficient development patterns;
  3. Promoting an improved intraregional relationship between jobs and housing;
  4. Allocating a lower proportion of housing need in income categories in jurisdictions that have a disproportionately high share in comparison to the county distribution;
  5. Affirmatively furthering fair housing (AFFH), which means “taking meaningful actions, in addition to combating discrimination, that overcome patterns of segregation and foster inclusive communities free from barriers that restrict access to opportunity based on protected characteristics.” [Government Code Section 8899.50]

Each local RHNA allocation includes targets for four income categories (described below). Pasadena’s RHNA allocation for the 2021-2029 planning period is approximately 9,429 new residential units and distributed among the income categories as follows:

While Pasadena is not obligated to build the existing and projected housing need, the City is required to adopt plans, regulations, and programs that provide opportunities for how and where housing development occurs. This planning occurs via the City’s General Plan and the key regulations that implement the General Plan, including the City’s zoning ordinance and specific plans.

Things to Read


The following resources provide important background information on the City’s current Housing Element, City housing programs, and recent state housing legislation.

Pasadena 2014-2021 Housing Element

The current Pasadena Housing Element was adopted by the City Council in February 2014.


2020 Report of Housing Progress

Per requirements of state law, each local jurisdiction must prepare an annual progress report on the jurisdiction’s status and progress in implementing its housing element. Each jurisdiction’s Annual Progress Report (APR) must be submitted to the state Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) and the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research (OPR) by April 1 of each year (covering the previous calendar year).

2020 Housing Element Annual Report


Current City Housing Programs

The Pasadena Department of Housing administers many of the City’s housing programs including resources for affordable housing, community development opportunities for low- and moderate-income persons, and employment resources to enhance and strengthen the community.


The RHNA Process

The Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) is mandated by State Housing Law as part of the periodic process of updating local housing elements of the General Plan. The RHNA quantifies the need for housing within each jurisdiction during specified planning periods. SCAG is in the process of developing the 6th cycle RHNA allocation plan which will cover the planning period October 2021 through October 2029.


Evolving Housing Laws

Since 2017, the California Legislature has passed more than 30 bills aimed at addressing the statewide housing shortage and lack of affordable housing in particular.  Several bills address increasing housing production by easing development regulations, facilitating construction of accessory dwelling units (ADUs), and streamlining development application processes.  The following table provides links to key housing bills:

Table: Key Housing Bills
Category Bill Title
Bills Removing Barriers to Boost Housing Production


SB 330 – Housing Crisis Act of 2019 and Changes to Permit Streamlining Act & Housing Accountability Act
AB 1763 – Density Bonuses for Affordable Housing
AB 2345 – Density Bonus Amendments
AB 116 – Enhanced Infrastructure Financing Districts
AB 1851  – Religious Institution Affiliated Housing
Surplus Land Databases and Reporting Requirements AB 1486 / SB 6 / AB 1255 – Expansion of Surplus Land Act and Reporting
AB 1483 – Housing Data Collection and Reporting
Requirements for Accessory Dwelling Units AB 68 / AB 881 / SB 13 – Modifications to Increase Accessory Dwelling Unit Development
AB 587 – Sale of Accessory Dwelling Units
AB 670 – Construction of Accessory Dwelling Units in Common Interest Developments
AB 671 – Affordable Accessory Dwelling Unit Program Creation
Established "Uses by Right" AB 101 – Housing and Homelessness Budget and Regulations
Housing Element Laws SB 166 – "No Net Loss" Law
AB 725 – Moderate & Above Moderate-Income Housing

Task Force

April 1, 2021 - Housing Task Force Meeting #1

Video PresentationSummary of Comments

May 11, 2021 - Housing Task Force Meeting #2

Video PresentationSummary of Comments

June 22, 2021 - Housing Task Force Meeting #3

Video PresentationSummary of Comments

July 22, 2021 – Housing Task Force Meeting #4

VideoPresentationSummary of Comments

September 9, 2021 – Housing Task Force Meeting #5


September 25, 2021 – Housing Task Force Meeting #6


October 7, 2021 – Housing Task Force Meeting #7


Community Engagement

August 2, 2021 – City Council Meeting

Agenda Staff ReportStaff Report-Attachment AStaff Report-Attachment B

July 14, 2021 – Planning Commission Meeting

Agenda Staff Report

June 2, 2021 – Housing Element Community Workshop #2 (English)

Presentation (English) Video English Main Room Video Group 1 Video Group 2 Video Group 3

June 2, 2021 – Housing Element Community Workshop #2 (Spanish)

Presentation (Spanish) Video

Comments Received from Housing Element Community Workshop #2 (English & Spanish)

Summary of Comments

May 26, 2021 – Planning Commission Meeting

Agenda Staff Report

April 15, 2021 - Housing Element Community Workshop #1 (English)

Video Presentation

April 22, 2021 - Housing Element Community Workshop #1 (Spanish)

Video Presentation

Comments Received from Housing Element Community Workshop #1 (English & Spanish)

Summary of Comments

Stay Involved

The City of Pasadena welcomes your questions, comments, and ideas: housingelement@cityofpasadena.net

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Housing Survey

The Survey is Now Closed.

Summary of Survey Responses