Cities without certified housing elements

Cities whose housing elements have not been certified by HCD must approve any proposed housing development project irrespective of their zoning and general plan as long as the proposed housing complies with health and safety codes (building standards), isn’t agricultural land and contains 20% housing affordable to low-income households or 100% affordable to median income households. (CA Government Code Section 65589.5(d) an easier to read version is here.) In addition, proposed housing developments are subject to the tenant protecting demolition controls in Section 66300(d).

You read that right - irrespective of the zoning and general plan. The cities listed below effectively have no zoning at all, as long as their housing element is out of compliance. The reason this situation isn’t more commonly used by project sponsors is that the proposed projects (usually) wouldn’t be zoning or general plan compliant, they wouldn’t qualify for any CEQA exemptions, so the project sponsor would have to do a full EIR. That said, it could still be worth it to take advantage of this incredible window.

The cities below are listed by HCD as having housing elements that are out of compliance. This list is current as of March 10, 2021. More information can be found here.

For reference, the California Median Income is $75,277. Median income data from For more info on each of the cities, peruse our cities data page.


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