Housing Element (2015 - 2023)

What is a Housing Element?

A Housing Element is a city’s primary planning document to address its housing needs for the future. Through goals, policies and programs in the Housing Element, the City must demonstrate that it is able to provide housing opportunities to adequately meet its housing needs for all income levels. 

State law requires that all jurisdictions adopt a Housing Element as part of their general or comprehensive plan. Each jurisdiction’s Housing Element must be updated every eight years and certified by the State. 

Does Palo Alto have a Housing Element?

Yes. Palo Alto’s current Housing Element addresses housing needs for the period from 2015 to 2023. The City completed and adopted the 2015-2023 Housing Element on November 10, 2014. The California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) certified the City's Housing Element on January 20, 2015.

Who was involved in the update process?

The adopted 2015-2023 Housing Element was the result of a close collaboration amongst the Housing Element Community Panel, Regional Housing Mandate Committee, the Planning, and Transportation Commission and the City Council.

Public participation was also a vital part of the Housing Element Update Process. The City held two community workshops on housing challenges and affordability in April 2014. The Housing Element Community Panel also held monthly public meetings to review the draft Housing Element and obtain community input.

Does the update address the City’s need for additional and affordable housing?

Yes. The State requires each jurisdiction to demonstrate their ability to accommodate its “fair share” of the State’s future population growth. The Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) is responsible for assigning each Bay Area jurisdiction a certain number of units which it is required to prove it can accommodate – but importantly is not required to build. This process is known as the Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA).

What is Palo Alto’s Regional Housing Needs Allocation?

On July 13, 2013, ABAG assigned Palo Alto an allocation of 1,988 additional housing units for the 2015-2023 Housing Element Update. These units are allocated in the following income categories to reflect local, regional and state housing needs.

City of Palo Alto RHNA (2015-2023)

Income Type

Number of Units

Very Low






Above Moderate




Annual Element Progress Report

Each year the City of Palo Alto submits an element progress report to the Department of Housing and Community Development and the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research (OPR) in Sacramento. Here are some of our most recent reports.

Want to learn more?

Please view our full Housing Element Update 2015-2023 or review these additional resources.