What is Housing Element “certification” and why is it important?

The State Legislature has delegated to the California Department of Housing and Community Development (“HCD”) the authority to review Housing Elements and issue findings regarding the elements’ compliance with the law.[1] When HCD issues a letter finding that the Housing Element is in substantial compliance with State law it is referred to as “certification” of the Housing Element.

Housing Element certification is important for two main reasons:

  • Local control. The General Plan and its various elements provide the foundation for the City’s land use plans and development regulations, and the Housing Element is part of the General Plan. If the City were challenged in court on a planning or zoning matter and the General Plan were found by the court to be invalid, the court could order changes to City land use plans or regulations and assume control over City land use decisions. HCD certification establishes a “rebuttable presumption of validity”[2] that the Housing Element complies with State law, which would support the City’s legal defense. Recent laws also allow for courts to impose fines on a jurisdiction if it fails to adopt a Housing Element in compliance with State law.[3]
  • Eligibility for grant funds. Some State grant funds are contingent upon Housing Element certification. Grants can help to cover the cost of some projects that would otherwise rely on the City’s General Fund.


[1] California Government Code Sec. 65585

[2] California Government Code Sec. 65589.3.

[3] AB 101 of 2019

Show All Answers

1. What is a Housing Element?
2. What is Housing Element “certification” and why is it important?
3. What are the most important issues that must be addressed in the Housing Element?
4. What is “affordable” housing?
5. What is the “RHNA” why is it important?
6. Is the RHNA a construction mandate?
7. What must cities do to comply with the RHNA?
8. Why are cities in high-cost areas expected to have affordable housing? Low-cost housing is not economically feasible here due to high land prices.
9. There is very little vacant land suitable for housing development left in Diamond Bar. Why is the RHNA allocation so high?