Bringing More Affordable Housing To Irvine

General Plan Housing Element Update

Under State Law, every 8 years, each California city is assigned a share of the Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) for affordable housing in their district.

RHNA housing assignments are divided up into 4 income categories based on percentage of Area Median Income (AMI). The income categories are 1. Extremely Very Low/Very Low, 2. Low, 3. Moderate, and 4 Above Moderate.

Each city is required to update the Housing Element of their General plan to reflect the site locations to accommodate the assigned number of RHNA affordable housing units as well as provide the goals, policies, objectives and programs designed to preserve, improve and develop affordable housing in the city. During the July 1, 2021 Planning Commission meeting the General Plan Housing Element Update was presented for discussion with the approval decision being continued to their July 15, 2021 meeting.

We are currently in the 6th cycle (2021-2029) for which Irvine’s allocation was increased from 12,149 units to 23,610 affordable housing units.  It is important to note that the cities are not required to build the assigned number of units during the cycle period, but only demonstrate that it has the land capacity to build the assigned number of units.

Irvine’s site selections for the assigned RHNA allocation numbers are based on resident access to jobs and public transportation. Therefore, the selected sites for RHNA housing tend to be limited to sites located in Irvine’s existing “neighborhood core” where residents have access to public transportation and live near job centers in order to have easy access to their job locations. Sites without access to public transportation and which are distant from employment centers are not considered appropriate for affordable housing locations. See Planning Area Map 

Click to access PC_Attachment_2_-_Planning_Area_Map.pdf

Where Will Most Affordable Housing Units Be Located?

State Housing and Community Development (HCD) recommends that RHNA housing sites be located in “high opportunity” neighborhoods and offer “high economic opportunity”.

Planning Areas Most Impacted:

  1. Spectrum 3: assigned 17,740 affordable units (Planning Area 35 located in East Irvine between 5 freeway and Irvine Blvd and the Great Park and Bake.  This planning area contains the Irvine Train Station. Site selection policy encourages higher density housing near public transportation and job/employment hubs.
  2. Orange County Great Park: assigned 15,772 affordable units (Planning Area 51)
  3. Irvine Business Center (IBC): 10,986 affordable units (Planning Area 36)
  4. Lower Peters Canyon: 2,007 affordable units (Planning area 4) located between the 5 freeway and Portola and between Culver and the Tustin border.
  5. Rancho San Joaquin: 2,202 affordable units (planning area 19)
  6. University Town Center: 823 affordable units (planning area 24. The units to be located near UCI are to be affordable Categories  3 and 4 (moderate and above moderate) as UCI provides student housing.

Proposed Goals, Programs and Policies to Achieve the RHNA Allocation Requirement:

  1. As demand for affordable housing and costs of construction are rising largely due to the pandemic, it is important to expedite the construction of affordable housing.
  2. Raise the required number of affordable units in the city’s Inclusionary Zoning ordinance from 15% to 20%.. Planning Commissioner Lim has suggested that the extra 5% units fund affordable units to satisfy RHNA income classifications 1 and2 (extremely low/very low and low).
  3. Maintain existing development fees and use the fees to subsidize affordable housing costs.
  4. Affordability categories of units located near employment centers should be consistent with workforce affordability (60%-120% of AMI).
  5. Target certain sites to develop 100% affordable units.
  6. As RHNA requirements include “No-net-Loss” of affordable housing, extend affordability periods past the termination dates of the 6th RHNA cycle (October, 2029).
  7. Establish partnership with Irvine Community Land Trust (ICLT) to create more permanent affordable units.
  8. Introduce residential units in Irvine’s retail centers by creating mixed use developments
  9. Encourage Transit Oriented Development (Mixed use near transportation centers).
  10. Introduce conversion of hotels and motels (Adaptive Reuse) to residential units and place residential units on religious and school sites.

After Planning Commission approval of the Housing Element Update, the draft will be submitted to Housing and Community Development (HCD) for preliminary review.  It will then be brought back for final Planning Commission review and input and ultimately for City Council adoption in fall/winter 2021/2022.

–Written by Richard Green and Susan Sayre