“RHNA” - What is Albany’s Share of New Housing?

Regional Housing Needs Allocations (RHNA) for Albany


1999 – 2006: 277 allocated, 343 built = 66 over (but 73 low income not built)

2007 – 2014: 276 allocated, 195 completed / committed = 81 shortfall to date


Every 8 years the State determines the total need for housing in each region of California. This effort is rooted in State environmental protection laws which try to prevent development of untouched land by encouraging more housing in already-developed cities and areas (“infill”).   For the planning cycle 2007-­2014, the State has determined that the total need for additional housing in the San Francisco Bay Area is 214,500 units. A housing unit can be a penthouse, a converted garage “in-law” unit, a McGregor single-family house on its own lot, or a mobile home in a trailer park.


This total need for housing units is allocated across each of the nine counties and 100 cities in the Bay area by the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG). During the allocation process, known as the Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA), ABAG takes into consideration job growth, water and sewer capacity, land availability, proximity to transit, and market demand for each locality. The RHNA is distributed among four income levels to ensure that the development of housing addresses the needs of all economic segments. 


Albany’s allocation is about 1 percent of the total Bay Area’s assignment. The mix of housing units appropriate for different income levels. 


Does the City of Albany have to build these allocated units?

No law requires the City of Albany to build housing.  But the City is required to get approval of a “Housing Element” plan, for accommodating new housing, from the State’s Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD).  Housing Elements must show zoning and other local regulations that will allow (or incent) creation, by others, of at least as many housing units as its RHNA.  If the RHNA is not achieved with additional housing/commitments to build during a planning cycle, then the City must show HCD, in the Housing Element for the subsequent planning period, that the shortfall from the preceding cycle was due to reasons not controlled by the City. 


During 1999 – 2006 Albany exceeded its RHNA of 276 with 66 more new units built than allocated.  However most of those built were for moderate income levels, leading to a shortfall of 73 allocated lower income units that were not built. 


In its current Housing Element application, Albany presents information that up to 127 low income units could have been built 1999 – 2006, if developers wished.  It cites the suitability of potential sites due to their size, zoning, etc.  If HCD disagrees, then some or all of the 73 lower income units’ shortfall will be added to the 2007-2014 allocation. 


In addition to developers of larger multi-unit structures, another source of low income housing is “secondary” units created by homeowners on their own property.  Examples are additions, or conversions of detached garages or other structures, forming (usually very modest) housing units. Few were completed with City permits since 1999.  There is a possibility that more exist than received permits. Albany is considering an amnesty to identify such units.  Newly found secondary units will not help with the RHNA, but Albany will know how much housing really exists.


How is Albany doing on its RHNA for 2007 – 2014?

The RHNA for 2007 – 2014 is 276 units, of which about 195 have been completed or committed (this may change since the planning period is underway.)  173 (net) of those completed are at University Village.  Low income allocation in the RHNA is 107 units, of which 6 have been completed. It is very unlikely that many of the remaining low income units will be completed this planning cycle.  Factors affecting low income housing across California 2007 - 2014 are:


  • State abolition of Redevelopment Agencies;

  • California ruling (Palmer) which prevents cities from requiring lower income housing units in rental developments;

  • weak real estate market part of the time period;

  • recession-reduced funds for governments to work on housing,

  • reduced

funds for nonprofits that try to increase low income housing. 


Albany will account for the outcomes of the 2007 - 2014 RHNA in the Housing Element for 2015 - 2022, which the City will work on as soon as it is done with the Element for 2007 - 2014.  More information about the Housing Element can be found on the City's website at http://www.albanyca.org/, and http://albany2035.org/

Other aspects of Albany’s Housing future will be covered in future blogs:


Where in Albany can Hundreds More Housing Units Fit?

What are Constraints to new Housing?

How are Albany Schools affected by New Housing?

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Ellen Hershey January 27, 2014 at 10:51 PM
Thank you, DHWG. Very helpful information.
SteveWu January 29, 2014 at 01:00 PM
Where are those 6 low income housing units? I only know of the 4 that were at 727 San Pablo which I think were built in 2008. " Low income allocation in the RHNA is 107 units, of which 6 have been completed."
DiverseHousingWorkingGroup January 29, 2014 at 04:55 PM
SteveWu - the 6 low income housing units completed since 2007 are listed on page 4-2 of the Oct 2013 Housing element http://albany2035.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Housing-Element_10-09-13-PZ.pdf. They are secondary units, at 836 Jackson, 956 Ventura, 938 Stannage, 645 Madison, 810 San Carlos, and 821 Ramona. Three more secondary units were completed since 2007 but they were larger, and/or had higher permit value, so the City classifies those for moderate income households. Btw, apparently the 727 SPA units preceded 2007.
SteveWu January 29, 2014 at 07:10 PM
i looked up the first one, 836 Jackon. It sold for 1 million dollars Nov of 2013. I doubt the buyer has a low income renter. What do you think? http://www.redfin.com/CA/Albany/836-Jackson-St-94706/home/1574357
SteveWu January 29, 2014 at 07:17 PM
I looked up 645 Madison. In 2011, it had a sale add on facebook with "potential rental" It is not clear it is really providing low income housing to anyone now. https://www.facebook.com/events/151566264898374/
SteveWu February 11, 2014 at 12:09 PM
When we estimate how we are doing on our RHNA, do we have to count the number of housing units destroyed along with the ones that are created? Around Albany there are various small houses in poor condition that have provided low cost housing. When one of those is replaced by a larger, nicer house, then it is no available as housing for the poor, since people with more money will now compete for it. Also, if you want to count the addition of housing units in the Village, do you also have to count the number that were torn down? How much was the net change?
dorthy manser February 11, 2014 at 08:38 PM
Steve, I appreciate your input, but I do have an honest, non-snarky, question. In Albany, and the U.S in general, housing and rental prices are set by the market, not the government (with the obvious exception of rent control). Similarly, new housing is created by developers, not the government. Developers are in it for the money. That can be forced to provide some portion of the housing they build in a city to be for low income people, but they can also decide it isn't worth it if too much is expected of them. So, I guess we could insist that all new housing built in Albany be for low income residents, but that might result in no new housing being built in Albany at all, particularly if a neighboring town does not make those restrictions. Similarly, we could make the minimum wage in Albany 30 bucks and hour, so nobody would be poor, but many of our businesses would go broke, and no new businesses would open. It's simple economics. Demand for housing in Albany is very high, which means prices will be (and are) high, which means it is hard for poor people to live in Albany. Short of a massive subsidy from the government, I can't see how that can be avoided. And if we do provide a massive subsidy for low income housing, then wouldn't that massively increase the demand as poor (but not dumb) people rush to take advantage of a good deal? Isn't that why the population of the Bulb has grown over the years? I hate the idea that the people that do hard, crappy jobs for the rest of us can't afford to live near where they work, but I'd really like a better sense from you as to how we get to a place where that isn't the case. Perhaps an example of a city or town that has gotten in right by your lights would be helpful.
DiverseHousingWorkingGroup February 12, 2014 at 02:43 AM
Steve, the Housing Element counts "net" units, in those cases when there are replacements, so housing is not double-counted. An example is the reference in the blog above, in the second sentence of the last section, to "173 (net) UC Village units. On your comments about poor condition, lower cost housing, the Housing Element (page 2-6) includes City policy to help preserve such housing by connecting property owners who need assistance with County programs that offer home rehabilitation help. City programs to help preserve housing have been limited the last several years by fiscal constraints and fewer staff. Finally, there is no system to track specific rents and renters in Albany, so estimates are used.
Alan Eckert February 12, 2014 at 04:20 PM
Dorothy said "[Developers] can be forced to provide some portion of the housing they build in a city to be for low income people." According to the post above, there was a court ruling that says the opposite. Am I correct in reading it this way, DHWG?
dorthy manser February 12, 2014 at 06:03 PM
Oops. Missed that, Eckert. And it looks like that's not going to change, since the Governor just vetoed a change in the law. http://nlihc.org/article/california-governor-rejects-inclusionary-housing-bill
SteveWu February 12, 2014 at 07:25 PM
According the the link below, in 1998, the village had 920 units. Now it has 974, so it seems like the net number of units added is only 54, much less than 173. "420 units built in the 1940's and 500 units built in the 1960's" In 2004, it had 956 units. Now it has 974 units. East has 392, West has 582 http://www.housing.berkeley.edu/livingatcal/uva_east.html http://www.housing.berkeley.edu/livingatcal/uva_west.html See page 12 for 1998 units, and 2004 units. http://scc.ca.gov/webmaster/ftp/pdf/sccbb/2005/0503/0503Board08_Cordornices_Creek_Ex2.pdf
Brian Parker February 12, 2014 at 09:54 PM
Alan Eckert (above) was referring to current litigation regarding the legality of local agency inclusionary housing requirements. Albany has such an inclusionary ordinance that like many other Bay Area communities requires certain larger housing projects to provide for 15% of the units constructed to be affordable to low and moderate income tenants. On September 11, 2013, the California Supreme Court granted the California Building Industry Association's (CBIA) petition for review challenging a San Jose ordinance that imposed similar "inclusionary" housing obligations on housing developers. California Building Industry Association v. City of San Jose (CBIA v. City of San Jose). On October 13, 2013, Governor Brown vetoed AB 1229 which would have clarified the legality of inclusionary requirements. His veto message stated the following: "[a]s mayor of Oakland, I saw how difficult it can be to attract development to low and middle income communities. Requiring developers to include below-market units in their project can exacerbate these challenges, even while not meaningfully increasing the amount of affordable housing in a given community." His veto message also explained: "the California Supreme Court is currently considering when a city may insist on inclusionary housing in new developments. I would like the benefit of the Supreme Court's thinking before we make adjustments in this area."
Brian Parker February 12, 2014 at 09:56 PM
If anyone wants more information Google on "California Supreme Court To Review Inclusionary Housing Requirements" and you will find a nice discussion of the issues related to the current litigation on the issue.
DiverseHousingWorkingGroup February 13, 2014 at 12:30 AM
Thank you Alan Eckert, Dorthy Manser, and Brian Parker for the points, links, and more detailed explanation of the challenges to inclusionary housing raised by the Palmer decision and Governor Brown's recent veto of a State bill to reverse Palmer. On the question raised by SteveWu about calculation of UC Village net housing, the calculation is per Housing Element reference period. From 2003 to 2006 UC tore down sections of old housing in waves and rebuilt in waves, so by the end of 2006 had 801 units for rent. When the current Housing Element reference period started in 2007, UC continued adding units so that there are now 974. Thus, 173 units more during the 2007 - 2014 Housing Element time period.
SteveWu February 13, 2014 at 12:02 PM
It seems like the net loss of 119 = 920 - 801 should then show up in the 1999-2006 time period where the article shows a suprplus: [1999 – 2006: 277 allocated, 343 built = 66 over (but 73 low income not built)]
DiverseHousingWorkingGroup February 13, 2014 at 08:36 PM
SteveWu, according to the Lees' book, SELECTIVE HISTORY OF THE COFORNICES UNIVERSITY VILLAGE, several UC buildings were vacated and/or demolished 1998. This would affect the calculation of the net housing in the 1999-2006 time frame. Table 2-2 in the Housing Element, on page 2-2, documents the "units constructed" for the 1999-2006 reference period. http://albany2035.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Housing-Element_10-09-13-PZ.pdf
dorthy manser February 14, 2014 at 12:04 AM
Seems to me that SteveWu is afraid to actually discuss the issues. What a shame.
SteveWu February 14, 2014 at 12:50 PM
There is a wonderful thesis about Albany Village as it existed in 1997 here. http://ocw.kyoto-u.ac.jp/ja/frp7an/011-002/pdf/thesis/at_download/file There must be some records that show exactly when the tear down started. Jeff Bond would remember.
SteveWu February 14, 2014 at 12:57 PM
Here is says demolition only began in June 1999 http://archive.dailycal.org/article.php?id=898
SteveWu February 14, 2014 at 01:21 PM
Before Village redevelopment, in 1993, the total rent paid by the village was less than $450,000 per month. After that, the rent went up to pay for future development. In 1996, the last year of the thesis table, it was still less than $550,000 per month. Now total rent from the village is over $1.46 million dollars per month. Calculate the number of units in the village and the rent for each type, and you see that people in the village pay $1 million dollars more per month than before redevelopment, and there are about the same number of units, so I do not see how it is right or honest to say that the village redevelopment contributed to affordable housing in Albany. The RHNA calculation seems to obscure the true thing that happened.
dorthy manser February 14, 2014 at 07:53 PM
Steve, the people who live at Albany Village are supposed work at U.C., mostly postdocs and grad students with (generally) excellent future prospects. It is not intended to provide low income housing for the city of Albany, and there is no shortage of people employed at U.C. that are willing and able to pay for the rents there. So, for what it's worth, I think you are right to point out that we really shouldn't think of Albany Village as being about providing low income housing for Albany. It's about providing affordable (for post-docs and grad students) housing for folks that work at U.C. Berkeley. Since most of the demand for that housing comes from people that move to Albany from out of state (or out of the country) in order to work temporarily here, it doesn't make much sense to think of Albany Village as part of the housing equation here. Then again, given our excellent schools and our proximity to U.C. Berkeley, it is likely that if the Village didn't exist, many of those postdocs and grad students would be looking for housing in Albany, which would drive up prices in general. So the presence of Albany Village is a net plus for the rest of us (not even taking into account the rich cultural infusion provided by these residents).
dorthy manser February 14, 2014 at 08:06 PM
And, utterly ironically, the development of the empty lots (NOT farmland) at Gill is intended to help ameliorate the cost of providing that housing. But I guess it's more important to grow a few token veggies than provide housing and a store that doesn't require a drive. Because empty lots are for Farming!
Dave February 14, 2014 at 11:29 PM
Steve, Any chance of you answering Dorthy's questions?
dorthy manser February 14, 2014 at 11:51 PM
I kind of doubt it, Dave. Forest, trees, Steve.


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