Available Sites Inventory

Government Code Section 65583(a)(3) requires cities and counties to prepare, as a part of their housing elements, an inventory of land suitable for residential development, including vacant sites and sites having the potential for redevelopment, and an analysis of the relationship between zoning and public facilities and services for these sites. The land inventory suitable for residential development is then used to identify sites that can be developed for housing, known as the Available Sites Inventory (Government Code Section 65583.2). Land suitable for residential development includes all of the following:

  • Vacant sites that are zoned for residential development
  • Vacant sites that are not zoned for residential development, but that allow residential development
  • Underused sites that are zoned for residential development and capable of being developed at a higher density or with greater intensity
  • Sites that are not zoned for residential development, but can be redeveloped for, and/or rezoned for, residential use, if the housing element includes a program to accomplish the rezoning early within the planning period
  • Sites owned or leased by a city or county (If using these types of sites, the housing element must include a description of whether there are any plans to sell the property during the planning period and how the jurisdiction will comply with the Surplus Land Act).

Realistic Capacity. Government Code Section 65583.2(c) requires cities and counties, as part of the analysis of available sites, to demonstrate the estimated residential development capacity of the identified sites can be realistically achieved. Jurisdictions must determine whether each site in the inventory can accommodate some portion of its share of the regional housing need during the planning period, as determined pursuant to Section 65584. The number of dwelling units calculated must then be adjusted as necessary, based on land use regulations and site improvement requirements, the realistic development capacity for the site, typical densities of existing or approved residential developments at a similar affordability level in that jurisdiction, and the current or planned availability of sufficient water, sewer, and dry utilities.

Zoning to Accommodate Housing Affordable to Low-income Households. Government Code Section 65583.2(c)(3) requires that the site densities  in the inventory be sufficient to encourage and  provide for housing affordable to lower-income households. Alternatively, Government Code Section 65583.2(c)(3)(B) allows local governments to use “default” density standards deemed adequate to meet the “appropriate zoning” test. Sites in zones that do not meet the minimum default density must be evaluated for affordability based on market demand and trends, financial feasibility, or comparison to an affordable project with similar density.

Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH). Government Code 65583.2(a) requires the housing element sites inventory analysis to be consistent with AFFH and the Assessment of Fair Housing by ensuring available sites for lower-income housing are located equitably across the community with fair access to opportunities and resources. AFFH will be discussed in greater detail in the next section. 

Standard Forms. Pursuant to Senate Bill 6 (2019) the sites inventory must be prepared using the standards, form, and definitions adopted by HCD. Links to HCD’s form and instructions are included below. Forms are submitted via email to: sitesinventory@hcd.ca.gov.

Survey Results

A survey of Valley city and county planning staff conducted for the San Joaquin Valley Regional Early Action Planning (REAP) Report asked staff two questions relevant to available land for housing and the sites inventory. A summary of the questions and 41 responses is included below.

  • Constraints to Housing Production. Participants were asked to score a series of constraints on a seven-point scale. Land Availability (4.22) and Zoning Regulations (4.1) were ranked the least significant constraints to housing production, behind Annexation (4.41), Neighborhood Opposition (4.66), Staffing Capacity (4.81), and Other State Regulations (5.09). 
  • Technical Assistance. Participants were asked to rate topics based on the likelihood that the jurisdiction would need technical assistance on the topic. Participants ranked topics related to the sites inventory, including Land Use and Zoning Changes (3.58) and Land Redesignation (3.1), as less likely to require technical assistance. Participants favored technical assistance with Incentives for Affordable Housing (4.06), CEQA Streamlining (3.84), Objective Design Standards (3.77), and Planning for Infrastructure Expansion (3.74), among others.

Stakeholder Interviews

Issues. The MPO directors in Stanislaus, Fresno, Kern, and Madera voiced concerns that affordable housing is more expensive to build than market rate housing – specifically, that higher-density infill housing can be more expensive and “doesn’t pencil.” Developers are choosing to produce middle- and upper-market-rate, mostly single-family products. Further, the Fresno and Stanislaus directors stressed that the State density requirements [for affordable housing] (20-30 units/acre) are not realistic in much of the Valley.

Challenges. Valley stakeholders are concerned with lacking infrastructure in areas zoned for housing because public improvements are costly for projects. MPO directors also identified constraints associated with the capacity of water and wastewater infrastructure, and portrayed infrastructure constraints as a universal challenge in the region.

Successes. Valley MPO directors noted that extensive available land designated for future housing helped to accelerate development and to keep land prices down in the Kern, Kings, and Fresno regions. Stakeholders strongly agreed that ensuring there is sufficient land designated for housing is critical to housing production.

Opportunities. Valley stakeholders believe there are opportunities to increase housing production by identifying, planning, and incentivizing priority sites, incentivizing density, and updating development regulations. Stakeholders also said that there are opportunities in identifying and creating housing sites on surplus public property. Additionally, MPO directors believe that the HCD and REAP technical assistance programs will be helpful in planning for increased housing production.

Relevant State Law

Assembly Bill 879 (2017) and Assembly Bill 1397 (2017) require additional analysis and justification of the sites included in the sites inventory of the city housing element. The housing element may only count non‐vacant sites included in one previous housing element inventory and vacant sites included in two previous housing elements if the sites are subject to a program that allows affordable housing by-right. Additionally, the bills require additional analysis of non‐vacant sites and additional analysis of infrastructure capacity, and place size restrictions on all sites. 

No-Net-Loss Zoning: Senate Bill 166 (2017) amended the no‐net‐loss rule to require that the land inventory and site identification programs in housing elements include sufficient sites to accommodate the unmet RHNA. When a site identified in a housing element as available to accommodate the lower‐income portion of the RHNA is actually developed for a higher-income group, the City must either (1) identify, and rezone, if necessary, an adequate substitute site or (2) demonstrate that the land inventory already contains an adequate substitute site.

AFFH: Assembly Bill 686 (2018). Government Code 65583.2(a) requires the housing element sites inventory analysis to be consistent with AFFH and the assessment of fair housing.

Senate Bill 6 (2019). SB 6 requires the jurisdiction to electronically submit the sites inventory to HCD.

HCD Links

Inventory of Land Suitable Land and Sites Inventory Webpage 

Analysis of Sites and Zoning Webpage 

Housing Element Sites Inventory Guidebook 

Housing Element Sites Inventory Form

Housing Element Sites Inventory Form Instructions 

HCD Webinar: Sites Inventory in the 6th Cycle 

Summary of Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing Requirements in Housing Element Law 

AFFH Guidance Memo