California sues Huntington Beach for violating state housing laws

The beachside city has reportedly refused to build more affordable housing per state housing requirements

CALIFORNIA Attorney General Rob Bonta announced he was suing the City of Huntington Beach for violating state laws that require it to approve more affordable housing and 13,000 new homes over the next eight years.

Along with Governor Gavin Newsom and California Dept. of Housing and Community Development (HCD) Director Gustavo Velasquez, Bonta on Thursday, March 9 said he filed the lawsuit in Orange County Superior Court and asked a judge to impose a fine and force the city to comply with state law.

The state has told Huntington Beach to follow through with a state-approved housing plan to build 13,368 new homes over the next eight years, particularly to increase home availability and accessibility to low- to middle-income residents and families.

“This is the colossal challenge that California is confronting,” Bonta said on Thursday. “The message we’re sending to the city of Huntington Beach is simple: act in good faith, follow the law, and do your part to increase the housing supply. If you don’t, our office will hold you accountable.”

On Tuesday, March 7, the City of Huntington Beach declined to reverse a previous action that banned certain housing projects that the state required to address the mounting housing crisis.

In the lawsuit, Bonta and the HCD argued that Huntington Beach’s ban on certain affordable housing projects violates a multitude of laws, including the state’s Housing Accountability Act (HAA), the accessory dwelling unit (ADU) law, and the Housing Crisis Law — broadly, laws guarantee more state-approved housing.

The suit also mentions the city’s noncompliance with The California HOME Act, which allows homeowners to create additional units on their own property in a “streamlined” process, according to the bill’s website.

“As our state faces an existential housing crisis, we won’t stand idly by as local governments knowingly flout state law meant to protect our communities and bring much-needed affordable housing to the people of California,” Bonta added.

Just hours after the state announced its lawsuit, Huntington Beach filed its own lawsuit asking a federal court judge to block the state’s requirement for new housing projects, arguing that the new projects would urbanize the city dubbed “Surf City USA.”

“I am committed to defend[ing] the city and its wonderful property owners who enjoy this quiet suburban beach town,” Huntington Beach Mayor Tony Strickland said.

According to a state law that was passed in 2019, a state judge can force fines of at least $10,000 per month for cities that don’t comply with California’s housing laws that require state-approved affordable housing plans.

The state of California has suffered from a housing and homelessness crisis over the last few decades and each year, the situation has worsened in areas like Orange County. According to federal data on the unhoused, about 170,000 people go unhoused on any given night in California.

California is the nation’s most populous state, and with the economic downturn caused and the cost of living skyrocketing across the state, the state is no closer to making significant improvements to the housing crisis.

Despite billions of taxpayer dollars having been allocated to local governments, each jurisdiction has the power to impose its own housing policies. But Newsom has pressured city governments to shape their housing regulations to meet state mandates.

California housing officials say that the state needs to build 2.5 million homes by 2030 to help curb the housing crisis, but because the state currently builds about 125,000 houses each year (according to the California Housing Partnership), that goal is far from being met.

The state’s lawsuit is the latest development in the years-long feud between Newsom and Huntington Beach, a conservative-leaning town that Newsom has argued promotes NIMBYism, a collective mindset that opposes new housing developments that stands for “not in my backyard.”

“Huntington Beach elected officials are the poster child[ren] for NIMBY-ism, and my administration will take every measure necessary to hold communities accountable for their failure to build their fair share of housing, “ Newsom said in a statement. “The housing crisis facing families across the state demands that all cities and counties do their part, and those that flagrantly violate state housing laws will be held to account.” (Klarize Medenilla/AJPress)


Klarize Medenilla

Klarize Medenilla is a staff writer and reporter for the Asian Journal. You can reach her at [email protected].

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