Every city and county in California is required to plan for adequate housing across income levels. However, just a fraction of those planned homes actually end up getting built.
Through a process called the Regional Housing Needs Assessment, or RHNA, the state housing department and regional councils of government allocate housing production goals every five or eight years for every city and county in the state.
For a fourth year, the Southern California News Group has created a report card comparing the number of building permits issued to state-mandated housing goals.
Local jurisdictions are required to draft housing plans to meet their state housing goals and ensure there’s adequate zoning to encourage residential development in four income categories:
Very low income (for those earning no more than 50% of the area median income)
Low income (for those earning 51-80% of the area median income)
Moderate income (for those earning 81-120% of the area median income)
Above-moderate income (for those earning at least 121% of the area median income)
They’re supposed to file progress reports annually to California’s housing department — though not all do. Data from 2021’s progress reports, which the state released in the summer of 2022, is the basis for SCNG’s latest report card.
Fourth housing report card: Most cities still lagging in production of affordable housing
Jurisdictions are graded on how close they are to being on track to meet their goals, depending on how far they are into their current RHNA cycle. For jurisdictions in the Southern California Association of Governments (or SCAG), the most recent RHNA cycle ended on Oct. 15, 2021. For the Association of Bay Area Governments (or ABAG), the most recent RHNA cycle will end on Jan. 31.
Grades for each category:
100% or better on track = A / 4 points
75-99% on track = B / 3 points
50-74% on track = C / 2 points
1-49% on track = D / 1 point
0 units built = F / 0 points
Overall grades don’t include categories without a housing goal
Extra credit was given for showing improvement, prioritizing what’s needed most and degree of difficulty:
Jurisdictions got a half-point bonus if they weren’t fully on track in a category, but improved their score by at least 25 percentage points from 2020.
Jurisdictions got a 1-point bonus for being at least 90% on track in each of the lower-income categories, and a half-point bonus for being at least 90% on track in the moderate category.
Jurisdictions asked to increase their housing stock by at least 10% during the most recent RHNA cycle could get up to 2 bonus points using a formula based on that overall increase and how well they were meeting their goals.
The overall grade comes from adding up category scores and bonus points, then dividing by the number of categories with housing targets (not always four). The grade-point averages correspond to these letter grades:
A+ = 4.33 or higher
A = 4-4.32
A- = 3.67-3.99
B+ = 3.33-3.66
B = 3-3.32
B- = 2.67-2.99
C+ = 2.33-2.66
C = 2-2.32
C- = 1.67-1.99
D+ = 1.33-1.66
D = 1-1.32
D- = 0.67-0.99
F = below 0.67
A breakdown of grades in four affordability categories shows many cities and counties are permitting sufficient expensive housing, but are failing to add enough units that moderate- and lower-income residents can afford to buy or rent. (Staff chart/SCNG)