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C.A.R. nonprofit settles housing element suit with Fullerton

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For release:
January 18, 2024

C.A.R.-backed group announces housing element settlement with Fullerton

LOS ANGELES (Jan. 18) -- Californians for Homeownership, a nonprofit organization sponsored by the CALIFORNIA ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® (C.A.R.)that aims to address California’s housing crisis through impact litigation, announced today that it has settled its lawsuit against the city of Fullerton, Calif. The global settlement addresses the organization’s claims that the city has not adequately planned for new housing, as well as related claims against the city brought by California Attorney General Rob Bonta and the California Dept. of Housing and Community Development (HCD).

“Fullerton is a high-resource city with easy public transit and freeway access to downtown Los Angeles and job centers throughout Orange County,” said C.A.R. President Melanie Barker. “This settlement will help make the city more accessible for families at every income level, and we are grateful to Attorney General Bonta and HCD for helping to broker it.” 

The organization sued the city over its failure to adopt a housing element in September 2022, and a trial in the case was initially set for January 2023. The parties agreed to delay the trial as they discussed settlement. Later in 2023, HCD indicated that it was also considering legal action against Fullerton and approached Californians for Homeownership and the city about the possibility of a multi-party settlement. 

The Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) and housing element system is an interconnected process for ensuring that California’s cities and counties plan for adequate housing to address statewide and regional housing needs. In the RHNA assessment, state and local governments work together to identify regional housing needs and distribute them among a region’s cities and counties. Each city must then develop a “housing element” — a component of the city’s general plan that identifies sites available for future housing development sufficient to meet the city’s RHNA allocation. If the city cannot identify adequate sites, it must change its zoning to allow additional housing development.

The settlement with Fullerton commits the city to specific timelines for adoption of its housing element. The city has also agreed to reimburse Californians for Homeownership for its costs and legal fees, and to comply with state law penalties that override local development standards for mixed-income housing developments in cities that are out of compliance with housing element law — a provision often referred to as the “builder’s remedy.”

Housing element compliance has been a major focus for Californians for Homeownership over the last two years. The nonprofit offers to forgo litigation against cities that are willing to acknowledge and comply with state law penalties for non-compliance. To date, the organization has filed over 20 housing element lawsuits, settled 11, and prevailed on the merits against three — Beverly Hills, Hawaiian Gardens and La Cañada Flintridge.

The case is Californians for Homeownership v. City of Fullerton, Orange County Superior Court Case No. 30-2022-01281840-CU-WM-CJC.  The settlement remains subject to court approval.

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Californians for Homeownership is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization sponsored by the CALIFORNIA ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® devoted to using legal tools to address California's housing crisis. For too long, California's cities have treated compliance with state and federal housing law as optional. The organization seeks to change that attitude by proactively enforcing the law, on behalf of the important public interest in having additional housing available to families at all income levels. Californians for Homeownership was established by the CALIFORNIA ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® (C.A.R.), and it receives financial support from C.A.R. and private donors. To make a tax-deductible charitable contribution today, visit caforhomes.org.

 


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