Newport Beach Mayor Says Meeting State-Mandated Housing Quota Will Be Difficult

February 11, 2021 Updated: February 11, 2021

The mayor of Newport Beach said his city will face a challenge to add the required number of new units mandated by the state in an effort to create affordable housing in Orange County.

Per California’s Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) mandate, Newport Beach needs to meet the state’s quota of 4,834 new high-density and affordable housing units by October 2029.

Mayor Brad Avery said developing housing at such a fast pace will make it difficult to produce quality housing that people want to live in.

“If we’re under the gun and there’s time pressure, what kind of development do you end up doing? … I don’t know how many cities are going to meet that deadline, us included,” he said during a Feb. 10 public Zoom meeting. “We’re clearly under the gun with that deadline.”

Last month, the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) rejected appeals by the Orange County cities of Irvine, Newport Beach, Yorba Linda, Huntington Beach, Laguna Beach, and Mission Viejo to lower their quotas, along with the region’s 1.34 million unit mandate.

Avery said it is going to be financially difficult for commercial property developers to build low- to moderate-income housing units to meet the requirement.

“We don’t have much choice in this. I don’t think anyone in town says, ‘Oh yes, I’m for more density.’ No one wants more density, but this is our new reality that we’re going to have to deal with,” he said.

“Ultimately, it’s going to be done through incentivizing, through zoning, that allows the property to become more valuable by virtue of development.”

He added, “We fully intend to comply with what the state is demanding of us. But it’s going to be really a challenge for us, and we need to do more outreach to residents.”

Avery said the city is looking into other ways to reduce the requirements, including registering private property owners who add accessory dwelling units (ADU) or guest houses in their backyards, along with people with rental units already in their homes, and applying these units toward the quota.

“It works for people who currently have a rental, whether it’s inside the home or outside the home,” he said. These units could become legal at a very low cost, and then be added to the count.

“I think there’s opportunity there for the city to do a good program of going out and saying people are currently renting out units that are not permitted to get them legal,” Avery said.