Frequently Asked Questions - Housing Element Update

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Housing Element?

The Housing Element is a chapter of the General Plan that outlines a community's housing plans and the polices the community has in place to ensure that they will achieve their plan's goals. While cities don’t build housing themselves, they do create the rules that affect where housing can be built, how much, and how it gets approved. Per State law, each jurisdiction’s housing element must help ensure that there will be enough capacity meet the projected need over the next 10 years.

Why Does it Matter?

For more and more community members, purchasing a home is out of reach while renters face inaccessible rent prices. Just about every city in the region needs more housing, of all types and sizes.

  • Teachers, firefighters, health care, and other essential workers are often traveling long distances to work or being forced to relocate to other cities;
  • Young adults and students are often unable to purchase homes or even live in the communities they grew up in once they leave their childhood homes;
  • Communities of color and non-English speakers--those who make up the majority of community members living in overcrowded and unsafe conditions--can’t afford to live near their jobs, schools, or families.

Creating more housing—and more diverse housing choices—means:

  • Young families can find an affordable starter home;
  • Young adults moving into the housing market can stay in the cities they grew up in;
  • Our aging population will have more options for retirement, including downsizing, providing housing for on-site health or home care, and staying in their communities;
  • Workers like our teachers, firefighters, health care, public safety, service and farmworkers can find homes near job centers;
  • Your children and grandchildren can stay near you in the communities they feel a part of;
  • More people across incomes will have more opportunities to rent or own homes in the places they live, work and love.

How Do We Know How Much Housing to Plan For?

The California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) develops a state-wide housing needs determination (RHND) number, based on projected housing needs in various income categories. HCD further breaks the RHND into regional assignments, and then allocates a lump number of units to each area’s regional coalition of governments (COG). The Bay Area’s COG is the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG)

This number is then assigned by the COG to the various jurisdictions within the region. This known as the Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA; pronounced ree-nuh) process. The State is currently in the sixth cycle of this allocation process, known as "RHNA 6."  

How Can I Get Involved?

Sign up for City updates through the "Housing Element Update" mailing list at this link here. You can also sign up for County-wide updates at this link here.

Where Can I Find More Information in Spanish?

21 Elements hosted a Spanish language introduction meeting for the Housing Element update on July 26, 2021. A video of the meeting, a copy of the PowerPoint presentation, and two short videos in Spanish can all be found at

Where Can I Get More Information on the RHNA Process?

ABAG has created a "Frequently Asked Questions" document on RHNA which can be downloaded here: RHNA Frequently Asked Questions. Additionally, you can find more information on the Let's Talk Housing San Mateo County website here: