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California orders Fullerton to allow 13,209 new homes, 5,187 for low-income

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(The Center Square) – The state of California reached a settlement with the city of Fullerton for the city to allow the construction of 13,209 new homes, including 5,187 for low or very-low income households, continuing the state’s battle to increase its housing supply amid a 4.5 million unit housing shortage.

“Fullerton has committed to stop litigating and start building. California is facing a housing crisis, and the status quo is simply unacceptable,” said California governor Gavin Newsom in a public statement. “More communities must step up and do the right thing by building their fair share of housing or be held accountable.”

Under the Housing Accountability Act, cities must have compliant housing plans, which must be approved by the state, that outline how the city will meet its housing goals. Jurisdictions that do not have compliant housing plans are subject to “builder’s remedy,” which means they cannot deny projects, even if they are not consistent with the city’s zoning or general plan, if they include affordable housing.

According to California housing regulations expert Joseph Cohen May, housing allocation determinations are made at a regional level, with local governments negotiating which share of the regional allocation they will help meet.

“Ultimately, it’s done as a negotiation between the different cities. It’s not like the state hands the RHNA number to the cities — they hand the regional number down to the Southern California Association of Governments, and then SCAG puts together a division between the different cities, and the cities have some negotiating power on that.”

The settlement requires Fullerton to adopt a compliant housing element by November 2024 and new zoning in fulfillment of the element by December 2024. Until then, projects in Fullerton that include affordable housing cannot be denied under the state’s builder’s remedy provision, which means developers could submit hundreds, if not thousands of units for construction. May says given the length of the deadline in the settlement, it’s likely Fullerton will take significant time to draft a new element that is accepted by the state, which will provide ample time for developers to submit new projects.

“The fact that the state gave them so much time makes me think they need to do a significant rewrite,” May said.

Nearly all California cities now have compliant housing elements. Earlier this month, California cracked down on nearby La Cañada Flintridge for rejecting an 80-home development proposed when the city did not have a compliant housing element.

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