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California Department of
Housing and Community Development

Zoning for a Variety of Housing Types


(916) 263-2911

Topics Covered

Please note, the information provided below does not reflect statutory changes enacted as of January 1, 2018 as part of the 2017 Legislative Housing Package. For additional information on the specific bills, provisions and timing for implementation, please visit our Legislative Housing Package webpage.




Photo of a modern transitional housing

Government Code Section 65583 and 65583.2 require the housing element to provide for a variety of housing types including multifamily rental housing, factory-built housing, mobilehomes, housing for agricultural employees, supportive housing, single-room occupancy units, emergency shelters, and transitional housing.

The housing element must also identify a zone, or zones, where emergency shelters are a permitted use without discretionary review (Government Code Section 65583(a)(4)) and demonstrate that transitional housing and supportive housing are considered a residential use and subject to only those restrictions that apply to other residential dwellings of the same type in the same zone (Government Code Section 65583(a)(5)).

Providing development opportunities for a variety of housing types promotes diversity in housing price, style, and size, and contributes to neighborhood stability by offering more affordable and move-up homes and accommodating a diverse income mix.

Requisite Analysis

The housing element must identify and analyze sites with appropriate zoning that will encourage and facilitate a variety of housing types. At a minimum, the analysis must:

Emergency Shelters

Every jurisdiction must identify a zone or zones where emergency shelters are allowed as a permitted use without a conditional use or other discretionary permit (Government Code Section 65583.(a)(4)). The identified zone or zones must include sufficient capacity to accommodate the need for emergency shelter as identified in the housing element, and each jurisdiction must identify a zone or zones to accommodate at least one year-round shelter. Adequate sites can include sites with existing buildings that can be converted to emergency shelters to accommodate the need for emergency shelters.

Shelters may be subject only to development and management standards that apply to residential or commercial development in the same zone. A local government may apply written and objective standards that include all of the following:

Note: if the adopted housing element from the previous cycle included a program to address the requirements of SB 2 for emergency shelters, and the required timeframe has lapsed, HCD will not be able to find future housing elements in compliance until the required rezoning is complete and the housing element is amended to reflect that rezoning. For more information, see HCD’s SB 2 Memo.

Transitional and Supportive Housing

Transitional housing is a type of supportive housing used to facilitate the movement of people experiencing homelessness into permanent housing. A person experiencing homelessness may live in a transitional apartment for a predetermined period of time, however not less than six months while receiving supportive services that enable independent living. Supportive housing is permanent rental housing linked to a range of support services designed to enable residents to maintain stable housing and lead fuller lives.

The housing element must demonstrate that transitional housing and supportive housing are permitted as a residential use and only subject to those restrictions that apply to other residential dwellings of the same type in the same zone (Government Code Section 65583(a)(5)). In other words, transitional housing and supportive housing are permitted in all zones allowing residential uses and are not subject to any restrictions (e.g. occupancy limit) not imposed on similar dwellings (e.g. single-family homes, apartments) in the same zone in which the transitional housing and supportive housing is located. For example, transitional housing located in an apartment building in a multifamily zone is permitted in the same manner as an apartment building in the same zone and supportive housing located in a single-family home in a single-family zone is permitted in the same manner as a single-family home in the same zone.
For more information, see SB 745 Memo.

Farmworker Housing

The housing element must include and analysis of farmworker housing needs (Government Code Section 65583(a)(6)) and if the sites inventory does not identify adequate sites to accommodate the housing need for farmworkers the housing element must include one or more programs to provide sufficient sites to accommodate the need for farmworker housing “by-right” (Government Code Section 65583(c)(1)(C)).

To demonstrate the adequacy of identified sites, the housing element should include an analysis demonstrating that the jurisdiction's zoning, development standards, and processing requirements encourage and facilitate all types of housing for farmworkers (e.g. multifamily, single-room occupancy, second units, manufactured homes, migrant centers, etc.).

The housing element should also ensure that local zoning, development standards, and permitting processes comply with Health and Safety Code Sections 17021.5 and 17021.6. Section 17021.5 generally requires employee housing for six or fewer persons to be treated as a single-family structure and residential use. No conditional-use permit, zoning variance, or other zoning clearance shall be required for this type of employee housing that is not required of a family dwelling of the same type in the same zone. Section 17021.6 generally requires that employee housing consisting of no more than 36 beds in group quarters (or 12 units or less) designed for use by a single family or household to be treated as an agricultural use. No conditional-use permit, zoning variance, or other zoning clearance shall be required for this type of employee housing that is not required of any other agricultural activity in the same zone.

Manufactured Homes and Factory-Built Housing

The housing element must demonstrate the jurisdiction's zoning code allows and permits manufactured housing in the same manner and in the same zone as a conventional or stick-built structures are permitted (Government Code Section 65852.3). Specifically, manufactured homes should only be subject to the same development standards that a conventional single-family residential dwelling on the same lot would be subject to with the exception of architectural requirements for roof overhang, roofing material, and siding material (Government Code Section 65852.3(a)). However, any architectural requirements for roofing and siding material shall not exceed those which would be required of conventional single-family dwellings constructed on the same lot (Government Code Section 65852.3(a)). For more information on manufactured housing licensing requirements, regulations, and design standards see HCD’s website at

The housing element should also describe the siting and permit process for manufactured factory-built housing and demonstrate how the jurisdication has identified zoning and development standards that will provide opportunities for this housing type. A jurisdiction’s requirements for factory-built housing must not vary substantially from the requirements imposed on other residential buildings of similar size (Health and Safety Code Section 19993(b)). Factory-built housing that meets certain requirements must be permitted in mobile home parks (Health and Safety Code Section 18611). For more information on factory-built housing licensing requirements, regulations, and design standards see HCD’s website at

Multifamily Rental Housing

The housing element must identify sites with zoning and development standards that will allow and encourage multifamily rental housing opportunities. The analysis should identify zoning that permits multifamily rental development and evaluate whether development standards and permit procedures encourage multifamily opportunities. Further, this analysis should discuss and address any policies that might impede multifamily rental opportunities and ensure sufficient and realistic opportunities for development in the planning period.

Single-Room Occupancy Units

A single-room occupancy (SRO) unit usually is small, between 200 to 350 square feet. These units provide a valuable source of affordable housing for individuals and can serve as an entry point into the housing market for people who previously experienced homelessness.

Many older SROs have been lost due to deterioration, hotel conversions, and demolition. Therefore, in addition to identifying zoning and development standards that will allow and encourage the construction of new SROs, local governments should consider including programs in their housing elements that commit to preserving and rehabilitating existing residential hotels and other buildings suitable for SROs. Other implementation actions that would encourage both the development of new SROs and the preservation of existing opportunities include:

Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU)

The housing element must demonstrate that the jurisdiction permits an ADU with only ministerial approval and describe the jurisdiction’s local ADU ordinance or whether the jurisdiction defers to Government Code (GC) Section 65852.2(b).

An "accessory dwelling unit (ADU)" is a secondary dwelling unit with complete independent living facilities for one or more persons and generally takes three forms:

An ADU provides complete independent living facilities for one or more persons and includes permanent provisions for living, sleeping, eating, cooking, and sanitation on the same parcel as the single-family dwelling is situated (GC 65852.2(i)(4)).  It also includes an efficiency unit (See Health and Safety Code Section 17958.1) and a manufactured home (See Health and Safety Code Section 18007).

City of Santa Cruz

Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) Development Program

The City of Santa Cruz's ADU Development program provides opportunities for additional affordable rental housing, while providing homeowners a chance to supplement mortgage payments. The program has received recognition nationwide and is the recipient of awards including League of California Cities 2004 Helen Putnam Award for Excellence and the Environmental Protection Agency 2004 National Award for Smart Growth Achievement Policies and Regulations. The program works implement the development of well-designed ADUs while helping to minimize the impact of population growth on the community by providing more rental housing in the developed core and promoting infill development and sustainable land-use patterns. Through the ADU Development Program, the City of Santa Cruz offers technical and financial assistance including an ADU manual detailing the development process, relevant zoning, design standards, building codes and showcases of ADU prototype designs.

Frequently Asked Questions About ADUs

What kind of environmental review is required for ADUs?

ADUs approved ministerially are statutorily exempt from CEQA pursuant to Section 15268 (Ministerial Projects) of the CEQA guidelines and Section 21080(b)(1) of the Public Resources Code. In addition, ADUs can be categorically exempt from CEQA pursuant to Sections15301 and 15303 of the CEQA guidelines, authority cited under Public Resources Code Section 21083 and 21087.

What is ministerial review?

Chapter 1062 requires development applications for ADUs to be considered ministerially without discretionary review or a hearing or, in the case where there is no local ordinance in compliance with subsections (a) or (c), a local government must accept the application and approve or disapprove the application ministerially without discretionary review In order for an application to be considered ministerially, the process must apply predictable, objective, fixed, quantifiable and clear standards. These standards must be administratively applied to the application and not subject to discretionary decision-making by a legislative body (for clarification see the definition of ministerial under California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) Guidelines, (Section 15369).

An application should not be subject to excessively burdensome conditions of approval, should not be subject to a public hearing or public comment and should not be subject to any discretionary decision-making process. There should be no local legislative, quasi-legislative or discretionary consideration of the application, except provisions for authorizing an administrative appeal of a decision

How can a locality encourage ADUs?

Local governments can encourage ADU development through a variety of mechanisms.

See links below for additional information and FAQs on state planning law related to ADUs, an ADU Memorandum prepared by HCD, and other program resources including examples of local program actions.

Helpful Hints

Definitions applicable to Chapter 633 of Statutes 2007 (SB 2)

Emergency Shelter: Emergency shelter is housing with minimal supportive services for people experiencing homelessness and is limited to occupancy of six months or less. No individual or household may be denied emergency shelter because of an inability to pay.

Supportive Housing: Supportive housing is housing with no limit on length of stay, that is occupied by the target population, and that is linked to an onsite or offsite service that assists the tenant in retaining the housing; improving his or her health; and maximizing his or her ability to live, and, when possible, work in the community.

Transitional Housing: Transitional housing is any housing configured as a rental housing development, but operated under program requirements that require the termination of assistance and recirculating of the assisted unit to another eligible program recipient at a predetermined future point in time that shall be no less than six months from the beginning of the assistance.

Target population: Target population refers to people with low incomes who have one or more disabilities, including mental illness, HIV or AIDS, substance abuse, or other chronic health condition, or individuals eligible for services provided pursuant to the Lanterman Developmental Disabilities Services Act (Division 4.5 (commencing with Section 4500) of the Welfare and Institutions Code) and may include, among other populations, adults, emancipated minors, families with children, elderly people, young adults aging out of the foster care system, individuals exiting from institutional settings, veterans, and people experiencing homelessness.

Policy and Program Options

Strategies to Encourage Emergency Shelters and Transitional and Supportive Housing

Sample Program Format

Description of the specific actions, jurisdiction’s specific role in implementation and demonstration of commitment to implement
Objectives: (Quantified, where possible)
Responsible Agency:
Funding Source(s): (Where appropriate)

Sample Programs

Sample Program 1: Amend Zoning for Transitional and Supportive Housing

Objective: To encourage the development of transitional and supportive housing
Responsible Agency: Community Development Department
Timeline: Within one year of adoption of the housing element
Funding Source(s): Department budget

Sample Analysis and Programs