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Housing Element 2023-2031

The Housing Element is one of the seven mandated elements of the general plan and must be updated on a set schedule. The Element is a detailed statement of housing goals, objectives, policies, and programs for the unincorporated areas of Sonoma County.

The Housing Element was adopted by the County Board of Supervisors on August 22, 2023 and certified by the California Department of Housing and Community Development on October 26, 2023. This page includes the 2023-2031 Housing Element and related documents 

The 2023-2031 Housing Element update project will facilitate and encourage housing development over the 8-year planning period beginning February 1, 2023 and ending in early 2031. The County prepared the 2023-2031 Housing Element to affirmatively further fair housing and to accommodate the County’s 3,824-unit Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) for the 2023-2031 Housing Element period. In addition to responding to all of the new statutory requirements, the Housing Element demonstrates how its identified local housing needs will be met, including those of special needs populations, through new and revised policies and programs.

On this page:

Final 6th Cycle Housing Element and Related Materials

The Housing Element consists of several components spread across several documents.

  • Goals, Policies, and Programs are contained in the Housing Element main text. The Goals and Policies form the housing policy roadmap for the unincorporated County. The Programs describe implementation measures that will facilitate the development of affordable housing and increase equitable housing opportunities in the unincorporated County for the 8-year Housing Element cycle.
  • Public Engagement Report is contained in Appendix A and describes the extensive public outreach conducted to inform the Housing Element draft development, including results of community surveys and focus groups.
  • Housing Needs Assessment is contained in Appendix B. Prepared by the Association of Bay Area Governments, the Assessment provides detailed information on the County’s population demographics, employment trends, existing housing types and costs, and other data that inform the Housing Element.
  • Evaluation of Previous Housing Element is contained in Appendix C and reviews the implementation programs of the 5th cycle Housing Element and describes the effectiveness of the programs in achieving housing goals during the prior Housing Element cycle.
  • Housing Sites Inventory is contained in Appendix D and describes the methodology used to select the housing sites, existing uses on the sites, availability of infrastructure and services, and environmental constraints to development.
  • Housing Constraints Analysis is contained in the Technical Background Report and describes the various governmental and non-govermental constraints to affordable housing development such as land and construction costs, community opposition, growth controls, development standards and others.
  • Fair Housing Analysis is contained in the Technical Background Report and describes patterns of segregation, disparities in access to opportunities, and other relevant factors that affect equitable housing availability.


Related Drafts and Documents


The Housing Element sets forth how the County will address the need for housing. The Housing Element also provides housing-related data and information to the public on housing in the county. The Element is based on a comprehensive technical assessment of existing housing policies, programs, and community input, and includes:

  • A discussion of current and projected housing needs, including low-income and special-needs populations;
  • An inventory of sites available for housing construction;
  • An analysis of market, environmental, governmental, and other constraints to housing production;
  • An assessment of new programs and policies that can enhance housing production in the county.

Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH)

Assembly Bill 686 (AB 686), passed in 2018, created new requirements for Housing Elements to affirmatively further fair housing (AFFH). Under AB 686, affirmatively furthering fair housing in the Housing Element context focuses on four main goals:

  • Address disparities in housing needs and access to opportunity;
  • Replace segregated living patterns with integrated and balanced living patterns;
  • Transform racially and ethnically concentrated areas of poverty into areas of opportunity;
  • Maintain compliance with civil rights and fair housing laws.

It is important to ensure housing sites are not concentrated in low-resource areas. HCD closely reviewed how Housing Inventory sites for low-income housing are integrated throughout the community.

Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA)

State law requires that Housing Elements demonstrate each local agency’s ability to meet its Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA). The California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) forecasts the housing need for the Housing Element cycle and distributes the number of units to the regional planning agencies, which in turn are distributed to cities and counties. For the 2023-2031 Housing Element Update period, the County of Sonoma overall (county and cities) has a combined RHNA of 14,562 units. The unincorporated County’s assigned share of that RHNA was initially 3,881 units, which represents an increase of about 650% above the final 5th Cycle RHNA of 515 units. The current population of unincorporated Sonoma County is 138,460 people. The County unsuccessfully appealed the ABAG allocation in 2021.

County staff completed an agreement with the City of Cloverdale to transfer 57 of the County’s 3,881 units, bringing the County’s assigned RHNA share to 3,824 units, and ABAG approved the transfer in late 2022.

Income Level Very Low
< 50% AMI*
< 80% AMI
< 120% AMI
Above Moderate
> 120% AMI
RHNA (units) 1,024 584 627 1,589 3,824

*AMI = Area Median Income
Source: Association of Bay Area Governments, 2021.

Community Engagement Activities

The County has made a diligent effort to engage the community in the General Plan Update and development of the 6th Cycle Housing Element. The public outreach effort for the Housing Element Update began in December 2021 and focused on the lived experiences of historically marginalized and disadvantaged communities, with public engagement opportunities listed below in reverse chronological order.