What is it?
The Housing Accountability Act (HAA) was originally passed in 1982 with the recognition that the lack of housing is a statewide critical issue. The HAA is designed to promote infill or housing development by speeding up the approval process. Also empowered the State of California to limit the ability of local governments and cities the power to deny housing.
In 2017, California State Legislature passed several amendments to the original law in an effort to strengthen housing enforcement and help the housing crisis situation.
- Must meet a city’s “objective general plan and zoning standards” aka local zoning rules.
- Cannot use the HAA as an excuse to build a 5-story building on an area zoned for 2-story buildings.
- The proposed development must not cause a “significant, adverse impact” to public health and safety.
- Developments must meet the required standards of the California Environmental Quality Act and California Coastal Act.
- SB 167 provides several amendments to the HAA.
- Modified key terms, most notably the definition of “mixed use developments” to include both residential and non‐residential uses, where at least 2/3 of the square footage is designated for residential uses.
- Strengthened the standard of evidence set for disapproval or approval of housing development projects or emergency shelters from “substantial evidence” to “preponderance of the evidence”.
- A zoning change made after an application for an affordable housing development or emergency shelter is completed cannot be used to deny approval.
- Requires an agency that disapproves of a housing development project to provide the applicant with written documentation of the reasons why the local agency believes the project does not comply. If the agency does not provide written documentation within the time period, then the project is deemed to be in compliance with all plans, ordinances, and policies. This requirement applies, not just to affordable housing and emergency shelters, but also to market‐rate housing development projects.
- Additional penalties for local jurisdictions that are found by court to have violated HAA. Penalties include a minimum $10,000 fine that must be paid within 60 days of court order.
- The statute of limitations for lawsuits under the Act is 90 days from the action that the lawsuit is challenging or 90 days from the jurisdiction’s statutory deadline, whichever is later.
- Expand the types of plaintiffs/petitioners who are entitled to attorneys’ fees under the Act (developers, petitioner, and residents).
- Allow for appeal of trial court decisions either (1) by filing a notice of appeal under Code of Civil Procedure section 904.1 or (2) by filing a writ petition in the Court of Appeal.