Madera County
Housing Element

About the Project


Madera County is updating key elements of the County’s General Plan and we want to hear from you! The County will update the Housing and Safety Elements and create a new Environmental Justice Element. This website provides all the information you will need to stay up to date and provide feedback on the project, including upcoming community workshops, public meetings, reports and resources, and other opportunities.

Madera County Housing Element Draft

The Madera County Housing Element draft public review period has ended. However, you are still welcome and encouraged to review the document. Click here to review the draft!

Estimated Housing Element Timeline

  • Public Review Period: March 11-April 9 
  • County review and consideration of public comments: April-Early May 
  • State Review of the Housing Element: 90-day review period 
  • Housing Element Adoption: Anticipated Summer 2024 

Housing Sites Inventory


Housing sites inventory for the 6th cycle Housing Element Update is now available!

About the Housing Element


The Housing Element is one of the State-mandated components of the County’s General Plan. It provides a framework for the County to accommodate future housing needs, including planning for housing that is suitable for all income levels. The Housing Element has two main purposes:

  • To provide an assessment of current and future housing needs for the next eight years.
  • To establish housing goals, policies, and programs that direct housing needs, reduce barriers to development, and ensure compliance with State legislation.

The updated Housing Element must be certified by the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) by a pre-determined deadline of January 31, 2024.

The Housing Element includes a strategy for the County to meet its share of the Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA).  HCD determines the total number of new housing units that each region must accommodate during the eight-year planning period. Through land use and zoning regulations, Madera County must plan for its share of the RHNA, including housing that is affordable to households at all income levels.

The Housing Element update will assess how current demands are being met and will plan for projected housing needs over the next eight years. The Housing Element also addresses housing for special needs populations, such as persons with disabilities, very low-income residents, and persons experiencing homelessness. The County’s housing strategy must also reduce any identified barriers to equality and opportunity.

The Housing Element update must include the following:

  • Community Needs Assessment: A complete analysis of the specific housing needs and an inventory of the resources and constraints relevant to addressing housing needs
  • Sites Inventory: An inventory of land suitable for residential development that could accommodate the County’s RHNA allocation
  • Constraints Analysis: an evaluation of governmental and nongovernmental barriers to housing production in Madera County
  • Goals, Policies, and Programs: Identification of specific policies and actions to implement the Housing Element

Other analyses, policies, and goals required to meet community housing needs, and/or comply with applicable State law.

Safety Element


The Safety Element describes the natural and manmade hazards that could impact people and property in the County. State law requires Safety Elements to be updated at the same time as Housing Element updates. New information on impacts resulting from climate change will be added to the Safety Element.  The goal of the Safety Element is to reduce the potential short and long-term risk of death, injuries, property damage, and economic and social dislocation resulting from fires, floods, droughts, earthquakes, landslides, climate change, and other hazards. State law requires jurisdictions to update the Safety Element upon the next revision of the Housing Element. The major hazards that could impact Madera County include:

  • Earthquakes
  • Floods
  • Wildfire
  • Extreme heat
  • Drought

Environmental Justice Element


In September 2016, Senate Bill 1000 was adopted to require jurisdictions with “disadvantaged communities” to incorporate environmental justice goals, policies, and objectives into their General Plans. Disadvantaged communities are neighborhoods with low-income households that are exposed to pollution (e.g., freeways, landfills). These communities are typically identified through a mapping tool or other measures that help identify communities that are most affected by many sources of pollution, and where people are often especially vulnerable to the effects of pollution. State law requires environmental justice policies to be incorporated into the General Plan upon the adoption of two or more general elements, as well as promote civil engagement in the public decision-making process in an effort to address the needs of disadvantaged communities. Madera County is in the process of updating both the Housing Element and the Safety Element, which also requires the County to include the environmental justice policies in the General Plan.

What is Environmental Justice?

According to California Code section 65040.12, environmental justice is the fair treatment of people of all races, cultures, and incomes with respect to the development, adoption, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.

Frequently Asked Questions

Click on each question to expand the answers.

When and why does the Housing Element need to be updated?

State law requires regular updates to the Housing Element to ensure relevancy and accuracy. These updates are required every eight years. The time from one update to the next is called a housing cycle. Madera County is currently in the 5th housing cycle that began in 2015 and will end in 2023. The upcoming 6th Housing Element cycle will cover the next eight-year planning period (2024-2032).

Having an approved housing plan helps maintain local control over land use decisions and makes Madera County eligible for grants to help fund infrastructure to support housing development and more.

What is the Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA)?

The Regional Housing Need Allocation (RHNA) process is the part of Housing Element Law used to determine how many new homes, and the affordability of those homes, each local government must plan for in its Housing Element. The RHNA identifies the number of residential units required for each economic income segment, which includes very-low, low, moderate, and above-moderate incomes for the planning period from 2024 to 2032. The calculation of income levels is based on Area Median Income (AMI), which for Madera County is $61,924 per year for a household of four.

Must cities and counties build the housing required by RHNA?

While cities and counties do not generally build housing – that is the function of private developers – they do adopt plans, regulations and programs that provide opportunities for how and where housing development occurs. Although the Housing Element identifies sites that are available in the county to plan for future housing, it does not mean the property owner is required to build the housing within the next eight years or any time in the future. Rather, the County is required to identify sites that are suitable for development and may implement programs to support housing development.

What makes a house affordable to an income group?

In a word, density. The foundation of Housing Element Law is based on the premise that density is a proxy for affordability. The idea being, the more housing units on a site (density) translates to lower construction costs per unit, which translates to lower rental/sale prices of those units (affordability). Based on this, HCD assigns minimum density figures to each income category. In Madera County, HCD identified a zoning density of least 20 dwelling units per acre to be appropriate for the development of housing that can accommodate low-income households.

How will housing locations be selected?

The updated housing plan must show the exact locations where future housing can be built and identify the potential number of homes that can be built at those locations. Included in the County’s Housing Element is an inventory of the sites that are compliant with current legislation and show where housing units can be accommodated. The sites must be vacant or underutilized and have potential for development during the eight-year planning period. Some of the sites identified may be already zoned for housing that can accommodate a certain percentage of the RHNA income categories.

The County may establish criteria and eliminate sites based on the following:

  • Topography is not conducive to building
  • Sites are not safe because they are in a flood zone or high-fire area
  • Sites are in areas deemed off limits by the airport because they are in the flight path or noise levels would be too high

Criteria to support additional housing may include:

  • Vacant lots not designated as open space
  • Underutilized sites, such as lots with uses or structures that are no longer needed or need rehabilitation
  • Locations where housing could be become denser than it is today
  • Locations near public transit and essential services like neighborhood serving retail centers
  • Sites where infrastructure, such as water and sewer service, can support more housing

Per the HCD Site Inventory Guidebook, sites best suited to accommodate the RHNA for lower income households should include factors such as:

  • Proximity to transit
  • Access to high performing schools and jobs
  • Access to amenities, such as parks and services
  • Access to health care facilities and grocery stores
  • Locational criteria that meet Low-income Housing Tax Credit Program funding
  • Proximity to available infrastructure and utilities
  • Sites that do not require environmental mitigation

The County’s housing opportunity sites plan is also developed with input from residents during the housing element update process.