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New housing development review standards in effect

The turn of the year brought with it notable changes in California’s housing development review process.  Amendments to the Housing Accountability Act, through Assembly Bill No. 678 signed by Governor Jerry Brown on September 29, 2017, have been put into effect on January 1, 2018.

AB 678 amends Section 65589.5 of the California Government Code, which prohibits local governments from rejecting or providing conditional approval for housing development projects.

The Housing Accountability Act ensures greater opportunities for the development of affordable housing, farmworker housing and emergency shelters.  As an anti-NIMBY (not in my backyard) measure, the Act improves the protection of the rights of very-low-income, low-income and moderate-income Californians to secure adequate housing.

The amended Housing Accountability Act establishes the following notable changes:


  • Revising how a mixed-use development can be considered a “housing development project”


California state law defines a “housing development project” as any “project consisting either of residential units only, mixed-use developments consisting of residential and nonresidential units and transitional housing or supportive housing.”

“Mixed-use developments” are properties that offer commercial spaces limited to the first floor of buildings that are 2 or more stories.

Under AB 678, mixed-use properties are considered a “housing development project” when the property dedicates at least two-thirds of its total square footage for residential use.


  • Requiring more documentary evidence to disapprove or conditionally approve housing development projects


According to AB 678, local agencies may only disapprove or provide limited or conditional approval for housing development projects when they are able to present specified and substantial written documentation that identifies relevant provisions and explains why the project is non-compliant to local building policies.

Provisions that may support local agencies’ move to disapprove housing development projects include:

  • Having an updated housing plan, which covers the housing needs for all income types and levels
  • Citing specific adverse effects that the proposed development will have on public health and safety;  effects that cannot be alleviated even if the development plan is revisited
  • The proposed development being located on agricultural or preserved land or bordered by it on at least two sides
  • The inadequacy of existing water or waste facilities to serve the development
  • The inconsistency of the development with local zoning ordinances and general plans before the date of application for approval

The Act gives local agencies 30 days to show the relevant documents to developers of projects with fewer than 150 housing units.  60 days are allotted to contest projects with 150 or more units.


  • Provisions for court action   


The Housing Accountability Act authorizes project applicants as potential residents in the proposed development and authorizes housing organizations to contest a local agency’s disapproval ruling by means of a court action.

A local government which fails to provide substantial evidence to support its ruling will be fined a minimum of $10,000 per housing unit.For the latest news and insights concerning Southern California’s investment-worthy real estate market, consult Lambert Investment, Inc. Connect with us today – call 310-453-9656 or email