In an unprecedented move, the state of California is suing one of its own cities for not building enough affordable housing.
Late last week, California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that the state is suing the city of Huntington Beach for “standing in the way of affordable housing production and refusing to meet regional housing needs,” actions that “harm California families’ ability to find affordable places to live and drive up housing costs for everyone.”
According to Newsom, the state has long tried to work with Huntington Beach to ensure that the city is in compliance with state housing law, but even after the California Department of Housing and Community Development made “extensive attempts to offer partnership and support” to the city, the city still chose to “willfully refuse” to build more affordable housing.
Under California law, cities and counties are required to draft and adopt housing plans that “meet the needs of the broader region and its economy.”
The law stipulates that a city’s housing plan must accommodate a “fair share of the regional housing needs and provide zoning that encourages development of housing that is affordable to the city’s residents across all income levels, including affordable housing and middle-income housing.”
According to Newsom’s office, in 2015, the California Department of Housing and Community Development, which is tasked with monitoring cities’ compliance with the state’s housing laws, found that Huntington Beach’s housing plan did not conform to state law.
The issue was that the city had previously amended its housing plan to “significantly” reduce the number of affordable housing units that were allowed to be constructed in the city.
According to Newsom’s office, the state tried to work with the city to ensure that more affordable housing was being approved, thereby bringing the city into compliance with state law, but the city council recently voted to reject a proposal to build more affordable housing in the city.
And that led Newsom to take an action that is a first of its kind in the state.
“The state doesn’t take this action lightly,” Newsom said. “The huge housing costs and sky-high rents are eroding quality of life for families across this state. California’s housing crisis is an existential threat to our state’s future and demands an urgent and comprehensive response.”
A 2018 law allows the California state government to revoke a city’s housing plan should it not comply with state law and refer cases to the state attorney general should it feel litigation is warranted, and according to Newsom’s office, the suit against Huntington Beach is the first time the state has taken such action.
The state’s lawsuit against Huntington Beach “seeks to ensure housing equity, requiring the city to amend its housing plan to bring it into compliance with state law by planning for the development of additional housing units that are accessible to residents of all income levels,” Newsom’s office said.
“Cities and counties are important partners in addressing this housing crisis, and many cities are making herculean efforts to meet this crisis head on,” Newsom said. “But some cities are refusing to do their part to address this crisis and willfully stand in violation of California law. Those cities will be held to account.”