County Submits Housing Element to State

After reviewing public comment and incorporating new sites

Santa Barbara County submitted its Draft Housing Element Update for 2023-2031 to the State on March 31, 2023.  A copy of it can be found here. Completion of the Housing Element comes after the County presented the draft to the public on January 30, 2023, kicking off a 30-day public comment period.  During that time more than 430 comment letters were received.  The County diligently worked through the comments and updated the County’s Housing Element.

The public comment process was beneficial and provided several changes to the County’s Housing Element. These include new programs and approximately 19 additional sites that the Board of Supervisor’s can consider for rezones/future housing, seven of these new additions are County owned sites. An interactive map showing all of the proposed sites can be found at

“Our team combed through all of the public comments and we were encouraged to find several additional sites to add to the Housing Element.  Everything from employee housing opportunities in Montecito to affordable housing opportunities on County owned property was added during this review period.  The County has worked hard to find sites that meet the State’s guidelines to ensure that the County has identified viable sites that can be built during this 8-year cycle and add the much-needed housing the people working in this county so desperately need,” said Director of Planning and Development Lisa Plowman.

The Housing Element Update is one of the mandated components of a General Plan.  It directs local governments to plan for the existing and projected housing needs of all economic segments of the community.

For this cycle, the State of California Department of Housing and Community Development (State HCD) requires that Santa Barbara County identify sites to accommodate 5,664 new housing units in unincorporated portions of Santa Barbara County between 2023 and 2031.  This is an 8-fold increase from the last cycle. That housing needs allocation, the Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA), is further broken down to require 4,142 units in the South Coast region and 1,522 units in North County.

The State requires the County’s Housing Element to accommodate 2,818 very low, low and moderate income units.  The new public and private sites following the public comment period added nearly 1,200 units in these categories.  

Once the State finds the Housing Element to be generally in compliance, the updated Housing Element will be adopted.  The second step in the process includes refinement of the rezone sites and the preparation of a Program Environmental Impact Report (PEIR) assessing potential impacts associated with the proposed rezones needed to meet the County’s RHNA.  The next opportunities for public participation are 1) at the Board of Supervisors hearing on April 4, 2023 where Planning and Development will update the Board on the changes made to the Draft Housing Element and 2) during the public comment period on the Draft PEIR. The Department will hold two public comment hearings; one in north county and one in south county.   The rezones are required to be completed by February 15, 2024.

The Housing Element Update is anticipated to be adopted by the Board of Supervisors later in 2023.