Critics Call Out City Housing Plans for Unrealistic Projections

Meanwhile, cities say the state’s housing needs assessment sets impossible goals for affordable housing production.

May 11, 2022, 10:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

California’s affordable housing crisis continues to create conflict between cities and the state, which recently implemented stricter enforcement measures for its Regional Housing Needs Assessment, an evaluation conducted every eight years that calculates the state’s housing needs. “The state determined the six-county region covered by the Southern California Association of Governments, or SCAG, needs 1.34 million new homes by the end of the decade, an average of nearly 168,000 homes per year, adding enough housing for a population roughly the size of Chicago.”

According to an article by Jeff Collins in The Orange County Register, “South Pasadena remains an example of how some Southern California cities are failing to adequately plan for future housing needs, pro-housing advocates say.” The article cites examples of unrealistic projections, which include sites that have little chance of redevelopment. “South Pasadena’s first draft housing plan envisioned building 49 homes on the 1.2-acre site that now houses City Hall and the police and fire stations. The plan was dropped in the revised ‘housing element’ released on April 21 because the city had no firm plans for relocating City Hall.” Collins notes that the city revised its plan in April to reflect more realistic projections.

In the past, the state rubber-stamped city housing plans even when they had a low chance of meeting their targets. “Now, new laws require cities to fully document why each site has a reasonable chance of getting developed by October 2029, the end of the current planning cycle. New measures also require municipalities to include plans for low-income housing in ‘high resource’ affluent neighborhoods and to take steps to undo historic patterns of segregation.”

The issue goes far beyond South Pasadena. “A 2021 analysis of 10 draft housing elements by Mapcraft Labs concluded that about 70% of proposed housing sites were unlikely to provide the projected number of units by the end of the decade.”

City leaders, meanwhile, argue that state allocations set unrealistic goals. “We are a built-out city, and our numbers went from 63 (homes) in the last cycle to 2,067,” said South Pasadena Community Development Director Angelica Frausto-Lupo.

Sunday, May 8, 2022 in The Orange County Register

A conceptual rendering of three high-speed rail trains. The middle train is orange; the other two are black.

The California High-Speed Rail Project Illustrates America’s Transit Issues

Slow progress and a bloated budget have plagued the High-Speed Rail project linking San Francisco to Los Angeles, exposing deeper issues with American transit projects.

May 22, 2022 - Eric Carlson

Multi-Family Development

Density and Driving: A Second Look

A common argument against more compact housing is that increased population density will only reduce vehicle miles traveled at moderate levels of density, as opposed to very low-density and very high-density areas. But this might not be so.

May 22, 2022 - Michael Lewyn

Parent and child walking, holding hands on mixed-use trail with trees

What Role Does Health Care Play in Community Development?

Cities are economically diverse and require accessible health care systems, but this can be challenging to implement. Urban developers are working alongside health professionals to create affordable care for city residents.

May 18, 2022 - Devin Partida

Boise Idaho

Boise’s New Planning Director Warns Against 'Dysfunctional Highways'

On the heels of his stint as Atlanta’s planning director, Tim Keane says Boise should avoid following in the path of American cities that have let highway expansion and sprawl go unchecked for decades.

May 27 - Boise State Public Radio

Aerial view of single-family homes in Atlanta, Georgia suburb

Voters Reject Atlanta-Area Cityhood Proposals

After local activists whipped up concerns about forced density to promote cityhood for three wealthy Atlanta suburbs, residents voted to remain in unincorporated Cobb County.

May 27 - Bloomberg CityLab

A row of white pickup trucks at a car dealership.

Want to Drive a Big Pickup Truck in D.C.? It’s About to Get (Even More) Expensive

D.C. is considering a $500 vehicle license fee for private vehicles over 6,000 pounds.

May 27 - Bloomberg

Urban Planner

Environmental Science Associates

Land Use Field Representative - Culpeper County

Piedmont Environmental Council


City of Oakland, California

HUD’s 2022 Innovative Housing Showcase

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Expanding HUD’s Eviction Protection Grant Program

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

New Updates on The Edge

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Hand Drawing Master Plans

This course aims to provide an introduction into Urban Design Sketching focused on how to hand draw master plans using a mix of colored markers.