Newsom administration lawsuit claims Huntington Beach blocked affordable housing
Employing a new law supported by CAA, the Newsom Administration has sued a Southern California city for allegedly stifling the production of low-income housing.
On Jan. 25, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced his approval of legal action against Huntington Beach, claiming that the city in Orange County has squelched the construction of affordable housing while also refusing to meet regional housing needs.
“The state doesn’t take this action lightly,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said in this news release. “The huge housing costs and sky-high rents are eroding quality of life for families across this state. California’s housing crisis is an existential threat to our state’s future and demands an urgent and comprehensive response.”
The filing of the lawsuit marked the first legal action taken under AB 72, 2017 legislation by Assemblyman Miguel Santiago, D-Los Angeles.
The legislation strengthens enforcement of the Housing Accountability Act, or HAA, which requires local governments to follow certain legal mandates before denying housing developments that comply with their general plan and zoning rules.
“AB 72 would require the Department of Housing and Community Development to monitor and for the state attorney general to enforce violations of the HAA,” the California Apartment Association wrote in a letter supporting the legislation in 2017. “These additional enforcement mechanisms will help ensure the continued construction or fair and equitable affordable housing across California.”
In 2015, the Department of Housing and Community Development found that Huntington Beach’s housing plan failed to comply with state law. Despite state efforts to work with the city to restore compliance, the City Council ultimately rejected a proposed amendment to build additional units, says a news release from Newsom’s office.
The lawsuit demands that Huntington Beach bring its housing plan into compliance by planning for the development of additional housing units accessible to residents of all income levels.
Huntington Beach says it’s already following state law.
“This lawsuit by the State is timed poorly,” Huntington Beach’s attorney Michael Gates said in a statement, as reported by the Sacramento Bee. “Now instead of making progress in discussions and negotiations, good productive communications with [Housing and Community Development] representatives will be cut off.”
Lawsuits against other cities may follow. The Department of Housing and Community Development has said 50 other cities and counties are out of compliance, the Associated Press reported.
“Some cities are refusing to do their part to address this crisis and willfully stand in violation of California law,” said Newsom, as reported by The Bee. “Those cities will be held to account.”
Newsom has made addressing the housing shortage an early priority in his administration. The governor’s first proposed budget includes $7.7 billion across multiple departments and programs to address housing and homelessness issues across the state.