Orange County cities will have to find space for more than 180,000 homes

Homes in Newport Beach.
Homes in Newport Beach.
(Courtesy of the Smith Group)

Cities in Orange County will have to find space for about 183,000 new homes after a regional board approved long-debated housing goals for Southern California at a meeting on Thursday.

The state has mandated that six counties in Southern California, including Orange and Los Angeles, will need to find zoning for 1.3-million homes by 2029.

The Southern California Assn. of Governments, or SCAG, was tasked with allocating these housing goals to each city. The group, which is made up of local officials and addresses regional issues, approved a draft of the plan in 2019.

On Thursday, the regional group voted to finalize the Regional Housing Needs Assessment, or RHNA, housing numbers.

The process has been mired in controversy for the past year. Cities have contested the numbers allocated to them, citing the difficulty of reaching such lofty housing goals. Nearly half the cities in Orange County filed appeals with SCAG, but all were denied.

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Most cities in Orange County have a couple hundred to a couple thousand homes mandated. Fullerton, with 13,209, Huntington Beach, 13,368, Anaheim, 17,453, Garden Grove, 19,168, and Irvine, 23,610, have the highest number of homes to zone for.

When the state decided on the 1.3-million new home mandate in 2019, it pitted Gov. Gavin Newsom against many Southern California cities. Local governments had originally proposed zoning for the development of 430,000 new homes by 2029.

Newsom has said that the housing is needed to solve the state’s significant affordable housing deficit.

About 75,000 of the mandated homes in Orange County will need to serve the county’s low-income residents.

“The governor has said California must use every tool in its toolbox to combat the state’s housing affordability crisis,” Newsom spokesman Nathan Click said in a statement in 2019. “This is part of that approach.”

Like the rest of the state, Orange County is facing a substantial housing shortage. The Orange County Business Council said in a 2019 report that the county’s housing deficit would grow from 58,000 to 115,000 units by 2045. Economic issues brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic could worsen those numbers.

Orange County has also been struggling with rampant homelessness over the past several years. More homeless people died in Orange County in 2020 than any other year.

Feeling that the state’s mandates aren’t helpful, local leaders have been advocating for more local control.

“But I think all of us can agree that local control is really the thing that we need to focus on to do what’s best for our communities,” Yorba Linda Mayor Peggy Huang said at the meeting. “Because RHNA has shown that one size fits all does not work. As well as all the various housing bills, in this one size fits all, really will instead of help our cities meet our RHNA numbers, they will only further exasperate the problems, and I think you’ll further divide our community and our region rather than bringing us together.”

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