What Local Governments Need to Know About the New Housing Accountability Unit

As the efforts to address California’s housing crisis reach a fever pitch, localities can expect heightened levels of scrutiny from a new set of state bureaucrats.

As part of the 2021-2022 state budget, the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) received additional staff to create a new Housing Accountability Unit (HAU). The purpose of the unit is to hold cities accountable when they stand in the way of housing production goals.

The team will consist of 25 members with a budget of more than $4 million tasked with enforcing a series of state housing laws like the Housing Accountability Act, the No Net Loss Law, the Density Bonus Law, the Surplus Lands Act and many others.

The crux of the HAU’s work will center around the Regional Housing Needs Assessment. In 2019, an analysis from the Southern California News Group found that just 3% of localities were on track to meet RHNA goals. Meeting those goals will now become more important than ever – and the failure to do so more legally precarious.

“HCD has authority to review any action or failure to act by a local government that it determines is inconsistent with an adopted housing element or Housing Element Law. This includes failure to implement program actions included in the housing element,” according to the HCD. Violations may lead to revocation of housing element certification or referral to the Attorney General.

Read more about the scope and powers of the HAU, including the complaint process, here.

See also: California is increasing enforcement of its housing goals: Will it work?