Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA)

Since 1969, cities and counties in California have been required to plan for future housing needs for all income levels by including a Housing Element in their General Plan. Every 8 years, housing needs are assessed within the different regions of California. After identifying regional housing needs, the total number of housing units projected to be needed for each income level is distributed among the jurisdictions in the region. This is called the Regional Housing Needs Allocation or “RHNA” (pronounced “reena”). Jurisdictions must then update their Housing Elements to identify policies and specific locations for residential development to provide the opportunity to reach the jurisdiction’s RHNA allocation.

The Bay Area region’s 2023-2031 RHNA process started in October 2019. The draft housing allocation for Saratoga and other jurisdictions is expected by spring 2021 with the final allocation being provided by winter 2021. Jurisdictions will then use their individual RHNA allocation to submit a draft updated Housing Element to HCD in 2022 and to adopt by January 2023.

City of Saratoga Input on RHNA

The City Council filed an appeal of its RHNA allocation, arguing that the allocation failed to account for the lack of land suitable for urban development due to wildfire risks, incorrectly identified Saratoga as Transit-Rich Area, and lack of available water for more than 1,700 new homes. ABAG received 28 appeals from Bay Area jurisdictions, which included 6 appeals from Santa Clara County. These were submitted by Saratoga, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, Monte Sereno, Palo Alto, and Unincorporated Santa Clara County. The public can submit comments on appeals to RHNA@bayareametro.gov until August 30, 2021. 

Additional Resources

Allocation Methodology

Based on growth projections from the State Department of Finance, the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD), in partnership with a Council of Governments for each region, determines housing needs within each of the 18 regions in the State. Each Council of Government for the different regions is then responsible for divvying up the housing needs among all the jurisdictions within that region. The Council of Government that represents the counties of Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Solano, and Sonoma is the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG).

In June 2020, HCD provided the housing needs allocation for the Bay Area for the 2023-2031 period. The total number of new housing units needed is 441,176. This compares to 187,990 for the prior planning period of 2015-2023 representing a 234% increase in future housing to be planned for in the Bay Area. 

The ABAG Executive Board approved the draft RHNA allocation methodology on January 21, 2021. On April 12, 2021, the State determined that the methodology created by ABAG complies with State laws. By late May, the Association of Bay Area Governments will officially provide jurisdictions with their RHNA allocation.   

The table below shows the draft RHNA allocation for the City of Saratoga. 

Total

Very Low IncomeLow IncomeModerate IncomeAbove Moderate
1,712454261278719

The Area Median Income is determined annually for each county by HCD.  The 2020 AMI for Santa Clara County is $151,300 for a four-person household.

  • Very Low Income: Less than $82,850
  • Low Income: $82,850 to $117,750
  • Moderate Income: $117,750 to $181,550
  • Above Moderate Income: More than $181,550

The public can sign up for the ABAG RHNA mailing list to receive updates via email.

As background, the following table shows Saratoga’s RHNA allocation for 2015-2023 for each income category together with the number of building permits that the City has issued in each category as of December 31, 2019.  The City has not denied any applications for new residential development in the planning period.

As background, the following table shows Saratoga’s RHNA allocation for 2015-2023 for each income category together with the number of building permits that the City has issued in each category as of December 31, 2019.  The City has not denied any applications for new residential development in the planning period.

Income CategoryUnits AllocatedPermits Issued
Extremely Low & Very Low Income (0-50% Area Median Income)147
Low Income (51-80% Area Median Income)9575 (ADUs)
Moderate Income (81-120% Area Median Income)10445 (ADUs)
Above Moderate Income (120%+ Area Median Income)9330 (new single-family homes)
Total439150
* ADU - Accessory Dwelling Units
* The number of permits shown above reflects building permits issued authorizing construction, not approval of planning applications.

Housing Element

Once the RHNA allocations to all the Bay Area cities and counties are finalized by the ABAG Executive Board, each jurisdiction will begin updating its Housing Element.

Learn more about this process and how you can participate.

State Housing Legislation

In recent years, the State has adopted a number of housing laws that shift more responsibility for development of affordable housing from the market to local jurisdictions and reduce local control over future residential development. The most significant in Saratoga area:

  • Senate Bill 35 (Weiner): requires cities and counties where housing production has not matched the Housing Element targets to use a streamlined, ministerial review process (e.g., not allowing environmental review or any discretionary findings such those used for design review and similar approvals in Saratoga) for qualifying multifamily residential projects.
  • SB 330 (Skinner): prohibits agencies from holding more than five hearings/public meetings concerning residential projects and prohibits adoption zoning or General Plan policies that lessen the intensity of housing.
  • Senate Bill 166 (Skinner): prohibits cities from requiring that sites identified in the Housing Element for affordable housing be developed as affordable housing and requires cities to identify new locations for affordable housing if the affordable housing sites are developed for another use or market-rate housing.

Input on Legislation

The City Council will periodically adopt positions on proposed State legislation. View positions adopted by the Council and learn about how the community can share their thoughts.