Project Title:

2024-2032 Housing Element Update

Case Number: 


Project Location:


Assigned Staff and Division:

Jessi Steele, Senior Planner, Long Range Planning Division

Project Status

In June 2021, County planners began preparing the 2024-2032 Housing Element Update (HEU). Currently, they are preparing a sites inventory and selecting a consultant to help collect data and identify regional housing needs within the unincorporated areas of Santa Barbara County.

What is the Housing Element?

The Housing Element is one of the 13 elements of the Santa Barbara County Comprehensive Plan (Comprehensive Plan). It contains housing goals, policies, and programs for the unincorporated areas of the county. The Housing Element is based on an assessment of current and projected housing needs and provides an inventory of sites available for residential development. It details market, governmental, and physical constraints to housing production. It also identifies goals, policies, and programs to overcome these barriers and encourage residential development.

2024 – 2032 HEU

State housing element law (Government Code Section 65588) mandates that the County update the Housing Element every eight years. In February 2023, the current, eight-year housing cycle addressed in the 2015-2023 Housing Element Update will conclude. In that same month, the County must adopt an update that complies with State housing element law for the upcoming eight-year cycle (2024-2032).


The HEU process began with the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) and the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments' (SBCAG's) approval of the Regional Housing Needs Allocation Plan 6th Cycle 2023-2031 (RHNA Plan) in February 2021 and July 2021, respectively. The RHNA Plan specifies the total residential units for each of SBCAG's member cities (Buellton, Carpinteria, Goleta, Guadalupe, Lompoc, Santa Barbara, Santa Maria, and Solvang) and the County. It divides those units into four income levels – very low, low, moderate, and above moderate . In addition, the RHNA Plan separates Santa Barbara County into two sub-regions, referred to as the South Coast and North County, and allocates the County's RHNA (unincorporated areas of the county) by sub-region.

The RHNA for the 2015-2023 Housing Element Update was 661 units for the unincorporated areas of the county. The County's new RHNA for the HEU is nearly 10 times larger, totaling 5,664 units. The following table shows the County's new RHNA.

Regional Housing Needs Allocation Plan 6th Cycle 2023-2031

Unincorporated Areas of Santa Barbara County


RHNA Allocation

RHNA Allocation by Income Level

Very Low



Above Moderate

South Coast






North County













HEU Process

The HEU must demonstrate that the Comprehensive Plan , including the zoning ordinances , provide sufficient opportunities to accommodate the County's new RHNA. In part, preliminary results of the sites inventory show that the County does not have sufficient sites available to accommodate its RHNA for very low- and low-income levels in the South Coast and North County. The County will assess potential new policies, zoning changes, and development standards to address this shortfall and otherwise comply with State housing element law. The County will ensure ample opportunities for public input into the HEU process throughout 2022 and early 2023.

The timeline below summarizes the key steps the County will take to prepare the HEU. State housing element law requires the County to adopt the HEU by mid-February, 2023. The County must then submit the adopted element to the HCD. HCD will have 90 days to determine whether the adopted element substantially complies with State housing element law.



Fall 2021 – Spring 2022

  • Inventory sites available for residential development
  • Identify housing needs using demographic, economic, and housing data and analyses
  • Initiate public outreach
  • Develop HEU goals, policies, and objectives
  • Prepare Draft HEU
  • Initiate environmental review

Summer 2022 – Winter 2023

  • Present Draft HEU to decision-makers at public hearing
  • Submit Draft HEU to HCD for preliminary review
  • Finalize HEU
  • Complete environmental review
  • Present Final HEU to decision-makers for adoption at public hearing by February 15, 2023
  • Submit Final HEU to HCD for certification


Please check back soon for documents as they become available for public review.

Additional Information

We welcome any ideas, comments, suggestions or questions you may have throughout all stages of this project. Please contact the Long Range Planning Division via  email.  

Join our mailing list to receive information about upcoming activities regarding the HEU.