Housing Element Update and Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA)

The Housing Element is one required topical chapter within the General Plan and is Irvine’s “housing plan. Irvine, along with all California cities and counties, is required to adequately plan to meet the housing needs of everyone in the community, and to update its Housing Element every eight years. For reference, the current 5th cycle Housing Element is available here. 

The upcoming 2021-2029 Housing Element is the sixth update to the Housing Element, and is also referred to as the 6th Cycle Housing Element. In the Housing Element, the City must identify enough potentially developable land that is zoned for residential use (i.e., site inventory) to meet the Irvine’s new RHNA allocation and must provide goals, policies, quantified objectives, and implementation programs to meet the housing needs of Irvine. Additionally, the Housing Element must address recent housing legislation adopted in response to the state’s housing crisis. 

For additional information and resources about the Housing Element, visit California Department of Housing and Community Development’s (HCD) website at www.hcd.ca.gov. 


The driving force for the Housing Element Update (HEU) is the RHNA allocation, in which the State estimates each region’s housing need for all income groups for the upcoming eight years. HCD has determined the housing need for the region to be 1,341,827 units. In turn, the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) has taken this number and, using their developed methodology, allocated each city and county in the region with its portion. Irvine is represented by SCAG, which is the Metropolitan Planning Organization serving Imperial County, Los Angeles County, Orange County, Riverside County, San Bernardino County, and Ventura County.

In September 2020, SCAG officially released the draft RHNA allocation to each jurisdiction The City of Irvine’s portion of the SCAG’s RHNA for the 2021-2029 Housing Element is 23,554 units total. This draft allocation is further broken down by income group as follows: 

Income Category 

(% of County Area Median Income) 


Very Low/Extremely Low  
(31% - 50%/0%-30%) 

Low (51% - 80%)                4,225
Moderate (81% - 120%)  4,299

Above Moderate
(120% or more a.k.a. “market rate”) 

TOTAL  23,554

SCAG plans to adopt the final allocation in February 2021For additional information and resources about RHNA, including methodology and its development timeline, visit SCAG’s website at www.scag.ca.gov. 

For an introduction to RHNA, please view the video here. 

For an overview of the RHNA process, please view the SCAG RHNA 101 webinar here. 

Process and Deadline 

Staff is in the process of hiring a HEU consultant through the City’s competitive bid process. We will update this webpage with the anticipated project time line and future stakeholder and community outreach opportunities once finalized. 

To comply with State housing element law, the Irvine City Council must adopt the 6th Cycle HEU (with appropriate CEQA documentation) and then submit the adopted HEU to the HCD for certification of compliance with State law by October 2021.

Housing Element Benefits:

Note that jurisdictions that do not maintain a compliant Housing Element (i.e., update HE by statutory deadline and its contents substantially comply with requirements) are at risk of significant repercussions, including: 

  • Ineligibility to receive critical state and federal funding;  
  • May be subject to a 4-year RHNA and HEU cycle (instead of the customary 8-year cycle) 
  • May result in the State disallowing the issuance of building permits and potential loss of local land use control; and  
  • May be open to litigation including the rest of the General Plan.

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