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What is a Housing Element?

Updated: Feb 4

Welcome back to the Cal Habitat housing blog! If you’re looking to educate yourself on housing issues in the Bay Area, you’ve come to the right place. You can also use this Google Form for any specific questions that you might have that you think we should address.


One crucial key term to understand regarding housing policy is the housing element. The housing element is required by all cities and counties in California to assess and meet housing needs. It is also an opportunity for people to have a say in how their local governments tackle housing.


The Berkeley housing element is a comprehensive plan that will shape the city from 2023 to 2031. Members of the community are encouraged to participate, regardless of how much they know about housing.


On Thursday, January 27, the city had an online public workshop to ask people where they believe it should focus on housing production. During the meeting, the city noted that a staggering 53.5% of Berkeley residents spend more than 30% of their income on housing. The Berkeley city council is looking toward rezoning that incorporates referrals to eliminate exclusionary zoning.


The city plans to create nearly 9,000 more units by 2031 based on its Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA). They are in the process of completing their site inventory, which means that they are identifying what would be the best sites to accommodate this target. Potential new sites include project applications submitted or pending, those vacant, underutilized, and/or large enough for development, and old structures. However, they will exclude condos, large apartment buildings, historic buildings, rent-controlled units, and most supermarkets.


As for the criteria that they are considering when assessing potential new sites, they are looking at areas that would not be hazardous in case of fires or rising sea levels. Another factor of importance is proximity to transit.


The city council will have its third work session on Tuesday, March 15. The housing element will be adopted in early 2023.


If you are a student looking to meet housing needs, look at the Basic Needs Center for more information on finding housing.



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