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Housing Opportunity Sites
Thank you for joining the July 14th community meeting! Couldn't attend? Watch the recording.
Go to Meetings & Events for additional information.
San Rafael Community Survey on Housing
Thank you for taking the San Rafael community survey on housing. The survey is now closed, but you can always submit your thoughts in the Share Your Ideas form below.
Housing Element Working Group
The City of San Rafael has created a 13-member Working Group to provide feedback on new housing policies and programs for the city. Information on upcoming and past meetings is provided on the Meetings & Events page. The meetings use a webinar format, with Working Group members on screen. The public participates as "attendees" and provides feedback during a designated Public Comment period. For a list of Housing Element Working Group members, click here.
Let's House San Rafael | 2023-2031 Housing Element Update
In San Rafael people and families are struggling to live close to where they work and pay a price allowing them to cover essentials and put money away for the future. Some who have lived in the community a long time can no longer afford to and have had to leave, while others who would love to live close to their jobs instead must commute long distances to and from work. These struggles are not unique to San Rafael. All around the Bay Area seniors, young adults, families with children and all of us are grappling with how to achieve the housing our community needs so everyone can find a place to call home.
Let’s House San Rafael is a City led effort to engage with everyone interested in helping to guide San Rafael housing policies so that everyone who lives, works, or enjoys the City will be able to do so.
The Housing Element is part of the San Rafael General Plan and describes the City’s plans to meet housing needs for current and future residents. State law requires all cities and counties in the Bay Area to update housing policies by the end of 2022.
About the San Rafael 2023-2031 Housing Element Process
More than five decades ago, the State legislature declared that providing safe, decent housing for all Californians was a matter of vital statewide importance. Since 1969, each city and county in the state has been required to prepare a Housing Element showing how the community will help achieve this goal. The Housing Element is part of the General Plan, the policy document guiding our long-term growth and development. The Element presents the City’s strategy for meeting its housing needs and addressing local housing issues such as high costs, lack of supply, overcrowding, and homelessness.
San Rafael’s existing Housing Element was adopted in January 2015. The State of California requires a comprehensive update every eight years to respond to changing demographics, market conditions, and new State laws. All 101 cities and nine counties in the San Francisco Bay Area must adopt updated Housing Elements by January 2023. The new Element will guide housing decisions through 2031.
State Guidelines and Requirements for Housing
The requirements for the Housing Element are established by the California Government Code (Sections 65580-65589.8). The State has established detailed standards for evaluating local housing needs, identifying potential housing sites, and evaluating obstacles to building housing. Cities are required to adopt policies and programs that respond to the findings of these studies, ultimately making it easier to build housing—especially for lower income households. Cities are also required to promote fair housing and anti-discrimination practices in the way housing is developed, sold, and rented.
As part of this process, each city and county is assigned a specific number of new housing units it must plan for. For the Bay Area as a whole, the total is 441,176 units for the 2023-2031 period. This is based on population projections, economic forecasts, and existing unmet need, as determined by the State of California. The Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) has distributed this assignment to each jurisdiction in the region through a process known as the Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA, pronounced “Reena”). San Rafael’s allocation for 2023-2031 is 3,220 units, including 1,349 units for low and very low income households. These households include teachers, nurses, child care workers, and thousands of service industry workers that call San Rafael home. The City itself doesn’t build housing for these residents—but it must provide ample opportunities for private and non-profit developers to do so.
Unlike other parts of the General Plan, the Housing Element must be certificated by a State agency—the Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD). Cities without HCD-certified Elements are ineligible for many state and regional grants, face costly lawsuits, and may even be threatened by loss of control over local building decisions. The City of San Rafael will be working closely with HCD throughout this process to ensure that the new Element is certified. Our new Housing Element will build on the existing Element, which was certified in 2015. Some of the existing policies and programs will be carried forward. New programs will be added to respond to new issues and community input.
While it is required by the State, the Housing Element is also a local document with a local impact. It is a chance for residents and the City to think strategically, and to plan for housing in ways that strengthen our neighborhoods and protect the environment. It is also an opportunity to be more equitable and inclusive, recognizing the diverse needs of our community and engaging more of our San Rafael neighbors in conversations about our future.
Be a Part of the Process
Community engagement is an essential part of this process. Please watch this website for future announcements of meetings, frequently asked questions (FAQs), Working Group meetings, Planning Commission and City Council study sessions, and other events to help create a housing plan that works for all San Rafael residents.
Share your Ideas
Have an idea about housing in San Rafael? Please include your comments in the space below and we’ll get back to you!