Understanding the Housing Accountability Act

Real Estate Property Auction

The Housing Accountability Act restricts local governments from blocking housing developments. As long as a proposed project meets zoning and permit requirements, the municipality cannot prevent the builder from moving forward.

Construction firms should understand how the provisions of this California law provide protection for their investments.

Provisions of the Housing Accountability Act

Under the HAA, a city must approve building projects that adhere to the municipal zoning laws. The appropriate municipal agency must vote on the application and issue the permits within 180 days of the application. To receive HAA protection, the project must not have a negative effect on local farms, water, resources or public health. It must also meet the requirements of the California Coastal Act and the California Environmental Quality Act.

Updates to the HAA

Although California originally passed the HAA to address its housing shortage in 1982, recent amendments in 2016 and 2017 made the law stronger. If a development firm petitions for approval under the HAA and wins, the court will now require the defendant to pay the petitioner’s legal fees. The city may also receive a fine at the judge’s discretion.

When a city denies a construction firm’s building project application, the commission must indicate the reason for denial in writing with details about the HAA section the project violates. The developer can file a legal complaint if the denial lacks this information or if the city attempts to pass retroactive modifications to zoning laws that would void the application.

Construction firms have the right to attorney representation when they suspect a city has prevented a project from moving forward in opposition to the HAA.