Orange County Cities Sue State Over Housing Mandates 

By Jack Bradley
Jack Bradley
Jack Bradley
Jack Bradley is a daily news reporter for The Epoch Times based in Southern California.
July 8, 2021 Updated: July 8, 2021

A lawsuit filed by an association of Orange County cities alleges California’s housing mandate violated the state local planning laws.

The Orange County Council of Governments (OCCOG) filed the lawsuit June 21 against the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) regarding the 1.34 million home mandate in Southern California; about 183,000 of those units are in Orange County.

“HCD did not follow the statutes outlined in state law to develop the projected number of units needed in the next eight years to adequately house Orange County’s population,” OCCOG Chair Trevor O’Neil said in a statement.

Cities must demonstrate they have enough land designated and made available for residential development as part of the state’s 2021–2029 regional housing needs assessment (RHNA), which is now in its sixth cycle.

OCCOG’s board of directors unanimously voted to file a writ of mandate against HCD during its May 27 board meeting.

HCD assigned Southern California more than 1.34 million dwelling units in August 2019, “more than twice the number of projected housing units needed … which is estimated to be only 651,000 housing units,” the lawsuit said.

The 651,000-unit determination was arrived at by the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG), which works with HCD to determine the housing allocation.

Soon after HCD announced the assigned units, SCAG sent a formal objection, stating the number should instead be much lower based upon its population forecast, and other factors such as “comparable region, vacancy rates, and new methodology,” the lawsuit said.

For example, SCAG projected Irvine would be assigned about 7,700 housing units. Yet HCD assigned the city more than 24,000 units.

SCAG projected Garden Grove would be in need of about 1,500 units; HCD mandated the city more than 19,000 units.

Costa Mesa was projected to need only 411 housing units, but HCD assigned it 11,733 units.

An HCD spokesperson said the 1.3 million housing unit determination accurately represents the region’s housing needs.

“HCD stands by the credibility and legality of its regional housing needs determinations for the sixth cycle housing element throughout the state, and contends that the methodology accurately captures housing needs in compliance with legislation passed in 2017 and 2018,” HCD spokesperson Alicia Murillo told The Epoch Times via email.

Recently, a homebuilding advocate group began a petition in support of the state’s housing mandates.

The petition was initiated by People for Housing Orange County, part of the Yes in My Backyard organization. It garnered just more than 100 signatures as of July 8, out of its 200-signature goal.

The petition calls on OCCOG to drop its lawsuit because it “runs counter to the interest of the most at-risk for displacement and homelessness.”

“Orange County needs more housing,” the petition said. “We need subsidized affordable housing for low and very-low-income families and service sector workers. We need ‘missing-middle’ townhomes and condos near jobs for millennial-aged teachers, healthcare workers, and emerging professionals.

“We are signing this petition to tell you that Orange County cities and the Southern California region as a whole need all 1.3 [million] new homes as assigned by the sixth cycle RHNA.”

Jack Bradley
Jack Bradley
Jack Bradley is a daily news reporter for The Epoch Times based in Southern California.