What is the Housing Element?

    The Housing Element is one of many chapters of the Town of San Anselmo General Plan, which is the Town's blueprint for the future. The Housing Element shows how the Town plans to meet the housing needs of everyone in the community. During the Housing Element update process the community can have a conversation about how to address local housing challenges and find solutions. The Housing Element must be updated periodically (typically every eight years) and is the only element of the General Plan subject to certification by the California Department Housing and Community Development (HCD).  

    What happens if the city or town or county does not have an approved Housing Element?

    The Town could face legal challenges to its land use requirements and decisions, which would impact how Town resources are used. It could also face fines and make the Town ineligible for many state grant programs, which fund affordable housing and transportation improvements. In other jurisdictions, judges have suspended the local ability to issue building permits until the Housing Element is certified.

    How is a city’s housing need determined?

    The State of California determines the number of homes that are needed for the Bay Area, consistent with state law. The Association of Bay Area Governments then distributes a share to each local government in the nine Bay Areas counties. Each jurisdiction is assigned a portion of the regional need at various income levels based on factors. This assignment is known as the Regional Housing Need Allocation (RHNA), and is intended to promote the following objectives (CA Govt. Code Section 65584): 

    •    Increase the housing supply and the mix of housing types in an equitable manner

    •    Promote infill development that encourages alternatives to solo driving and reduces greenhouse gas emissions

    •    Balance jobs and housing

    •    Discourage housing development patterns that segment communities 

    •    Affirmatively further fair housing

    In the last Housing Element cycle 2015-2023, the Reginal Housing Needs determination was much smaller, and the allocation methodology emphasized placing units near job centers and transit and factored in anticipated jurisdiction household growth. So, areas with low growth and no mass transit like Marin received lower allocations. The current methodology placed a lot of weight on the jurisdiction's share of existing housing units and areas in High Resource Areas.

    Each jurisdiction must identify adequate sites to accommodate its RHNA allocation in its Housing Element. 

    What was the process in assigning the RHNA Allocation?

    RHNA starts with the Regional Housing Needs Determination (RHND) provided by California’s Housing and Community Development Department (HCD), which is the total number of housing units the Bay Area needs over the eight-year period, by income group. The heart of ABAG’s work on RHNA is developing the methodology to allocate a portion of housing needs to each city, town, and county in the region. ABAG convened a Housing Methodology Committee made up of local elected officials and staff and stakeholders, which met for nearly a year before voting on a proposed RHNA methodology (Marin County Housing Methodology Committee representatives voted against the methodology). The ABAG Regional Planning Committee and Executive Board approved the proposed methodology in October 2020, followed by a public comment period. After considering the public comments, the RPC and Executive Board approved the draft RHNA methodology in January 2021. 

    In May 2021, following HCD’s findings that the draft RHNA methodology furthers the RHNA objectives, ABAG adopted a final methodology and draft allocations for every local government in the Bay Area. Bay Area jurisdictions and HCD had an opportunity to appeal a jurisdiction's draft RHNA allocation by July 9, 2021. The Town of San Anselmo has filed an appeal of its draft allocation. Any appeals that are upheld could affect the allocations for all jurisdictions. Following the appeals process, ABAG will adopt final RHNA allocations by the end of 2021. 

    See the report entitled Draft Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) Plan: San Francisco Bay Area, 2023-2031 for a detailed overview of the final RHNA methodology and draft allocations. 

    What is the Housing Need in San Anselmo?

    With a projected growth of over 441,000 households for the Bay Area by 2030, San Anselmo was assigned the housing need allocation shown below. 

    Town of San Anselmo  2023-2031 Draft RHNA Allocation

    VERY LOW INCOME (<50% of Area Median Income) 



    LOW INCOME (50-80% of Area Median Income) 



    MODERATE INCOME (80-120% of Area Median Income) 



    ABOVE MODERATE INCOME (>120% of Area Median Income 







    Can the RHNA allocation be challenged?

    The Town of San Anselmo challenged its RHNA allocation. ABAG is currently considering appeals which were filed by the deadline and will issue the final allocations by the end of 2021. 

    Has anyone ever successfully challenged their RHNA allocation?

    Local governments may appeal their RHNA allocation to ABAG. Appeals are limited to any of the following circumstances (CA Govt. Code Section 65584.05):

    (1) The council of governments or delegate subregion, as applicable, failed to adequately consider the information submitted pursuant to subdivision (b) of Section 65584.04.

    (2) The council of governments or delegate subregion, as applicable, failed to determine the share of the regional housing need in accordance with the information described in, and the methodology established pursuant to, Section 65584.04, and in a manner that furthers, and does not undermine, the intent of the objectives listed in subdivision (d) of Section 65584.

    (3) A significant and unforeseen change in circumstances has occurred in the local jurisdiction or jurisdictions that merits a revision of the information submitted pursuant to subdivision (b) of Section 65584.04. Appeals on this basis shall only be made by the jurisdiction or jurisdictions where the change in circumstances has occurred.

    Recently, 95% of appeals from Southern California jurisdictions were denied based on these guidelines. In the prior housing element cycle in 2013, ABAG upheld 3 RHNA appeals affecting only 674 units. 

    What does San Anselmo control in the process?

    While the minimum target number of units is final, except for appeals, the community has broad discretion where the units should be located and what they look like. Equally importantly the Town may define its own housing goals and priorities as long as the don’t violate any laws. 

    When will the housing be built?

    That is up to property owners and the market. 

    The Town must ensure that the appropriate zoning is in place to accommodate its share of the regional housing need, or RHNA allocation. The Town does not control when or how much housing is actually built on private sites. New housing construction is based on a variety of socio-economic factors, such as demand, available financing, land and construction costs, etc., and is ultimately driven by private property owners.  

    The Town does not currently have any funding to build housing on sites that the Town owns.

    What does affordable housing mean?

    Providing opportunities for more affordable housing is important. Purchasing or renting a home is becoming more and more out of reach for too many people. A variety of housing types is essential to provide housing options for those young and old, for families with lower and higher incomes, as well as to meet the needs of large and small families and persons with disabilities. A mix of housing opportunities means, among other things, that young adults moving into the housing market can stay in the cities they grew up in; workers can find homes near their jobs; and older adults have more options for retirement and can stay in the communities they know. 

    The table below define affordability levels for Marin. These are the State Income Limits for 2021 for Marin as calculated by the state.  

    Income Limits: Marin County

    Income Category

    Percent of median income

    Annual income
     (1-person household)

    Annual income
     (3-person household)

    Annual income
     (4-person household)

    Extremely low-income





    Very low-income





    Low income





    Median income





    Moderate income





    Source: https://www.hcd.ca.gov/grants-funding/income-limits/state-and-federal-income-limits/docs/income-limits-2021.pdf