Affordable Housing

What is the Lake Forest Housing Element?

Bottom-Line Answer

By law, every city in California must adopt a Housing Element as part of its General Plan. The Lake Forest Housing Element was last updated in January 2014. The Housing Element analyzed the city’s demographics, housing characteristics and trends and provides a housing action plan, with goals, policies and programs for the period 2013-2021.

California law recognizes the vital role local governments play in the supply and affordability of housing. Each local government in California is required to adopt a comprehensive, long-term General Plan for the physical development of the area within its jurisdiction. The Housing Element is 1 of the 7 mandated elements of the local General Plan.

Technical Answer

Housing element law, enacted in 1969, mandates that local governments adequately plan to meet the existing and projected housing needs of all economic segments of the community. The law acknowledges that, in order for the private market to adequately address housing needs and demand, local governments must adopt land use plans and regulatory systems which provide opportunities for, and do not unduly constrain, housing development. Effectively, this means that the housing element must ensure that there is sufficient land for future development of a fair share of the region’s housing. This is accomplished by designating land for various densities and housing types, such as single family homes and apartments. As a result, housing policy in California rests largely upon the effective implementation of local general plans and, in particular, local housing elements. Housing element law also requires that the Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) review local housing elements for compliance with California law and to report its written findings to the local government.

Why is affordable housing required for Portola Center?


Bottom-Line Answer

Some provision for affordable housing is required by the State and requirements specific to Portola Center are documented in the Development Agreement.

Technical Answer

Partly in response to State mandates, the city encourages new residential developments to incorporate 15% of the units as affordable. This policy was established by the city’s first general plan and is included as part of the 2008-2014 Housing Element. The policy encourages the development of a variety of housing types and prices, including opportunities for first-time home buyers, those seeking move-up homes, or those who are renters by choice. The policy provides flexibility and allows for creativity to enable the city, developer, and community to work collaboratively to design and locate the affordable units to seamlessly integrate into the new community. For example, for each of the New Neighborhoods (Baker Ranch, Portola Center, Serrano Summit, The Pinnacle at Serrano Highlands, and Whisler Ridge), a Development Agreement with each landowner included a provision regarding affordable housing. For the 3 larger landowners, the city Council approved an Affordable Housing Implementation Plan (AHIP). The AHIPs provide a general outline for the provision of a limited number of affordable and workforce housing units in the New Neighborhoods. When the developers advance to the site planning process, the AHIPs require the developers to ensure that all units, including those designed for income eligible families, demonstrate quality design and adhere to all the city’s development standards. In addition, the AHIPs include a point system to incentivize the owners of the larger properties to provide a variety of affordable housing opportunities within their projects, including for sale condominiums and senior housing.

How many affordable housing units are required for Portola Center?


Bottom-Line Answer

The Portola Center Development Agreement requires that 8.5% to 15% of the constructed units are affordable. The developer's current Draft Affordable Housing Implementation Plan (AHIP) would result in the provision of approximately 75 affordable units.

Technical Answer

The affordable housing obligation for the Portola Center project is based on the provisions of the Affordable Housing Implementation Plan (AHIP) included in the Portola Center Development Agreement. The AHIP allows flexibility with respect to the number, type (rental or ownership, number of bedrooms, etc.), location, and eligible income levels of the affordable units to be provided, and establishes a point system for meeting the affordable housing obligation.

The number of points (not units) required is equal to 15% of the total number of units approved and built in conjunction with the project. For example, if 930 units are built, a total of 139.5 points are required. The number of points awarded is based on the number, type and income level of the units to be provided.

Each unit is awarded a base point and additional points (or fractions thereof) are awarded based on the specifics of each unit. For example, each unit affordable to "Low" or "Very Low" income households receives, in addition to the base point, an additional 0.5 point. Similarly, an additional 0.2 point is awarded for each 2-bedroom unit, and an additional 0.7 point is awarded for each 3-bedroom unit, etc. Additional points may be awarded based on other criteria identified in the DA AHIP. However, in no instance may the total number of affordable units be less than 8.5% of the total number of market rate units (i.e., 75 units if 930 market rate units are constructed).

What are the eligible income categories for affordable units?


Bottom-Line Answer

Eligible income categories for affordable housing include Moderate, Low and Very Low income households as defined below for rental units:
Moderate Income Households are those earning between 80% and 120% of the area median income adjusted for family size appropriate for the unit.
Low Income Households are those earning between 50% and 80% of the area median income adjusted for family size appropriate for the unit.
Very Low Income Households are those earning between 30% and 50% of the area median income adjusted for family size appropriate for the unit.

Technical Answer

The income of the residents eligible to reside in the affordable housing units will be based on the median family income for the area (adjusted for family size), as published by the California Department of Housing and Community Development. The 2012 area median income (AMI) for a 4-person household in Orange County is $85,300. The following breaks down the income limits for households in each of the targeted income categories:


Number of Persons in Household


Earning % of AMI





Very Low

Up to 50%






Up to 80%






Up to 120%





Source:  February 1, 2012, HCD, State Income Limits for 2012.


Orange County Median Salary







Medical Assistant


Dental Assistant


Automobile Mechanic




Administrative Assistant




Kindergarten Teacher




Police Officer






Source: California Employment Development Department
*Starting Annual Salary (does not include overtime pay)

What are the affordable housing units currently proposed in the developer's draft Affordable Housing Implementation Plan (AHIP)?

Bottom-Line Answer

18 second-units attached to single-family homes and 57 senior affordable apartments.

Technical Answer

The project proposes that 57 units would be provided above the ground-floor commercial space planned for the southeast corner of Glenn Ranch Road and Saddleback Ranch Road. The 57 senior units would be restricted to persons 62 years of age or older. The remaining 18 units are proposed as accessory living quarters / second units attached to 18 single-family homes dispersed throughout the project areas north of Glenn Ranch Road.

What would the affordable housing units look like?


Bottom-Line Answer

As with all projects, all units will be required to meet the design guidelines specified in the Area Plan, which will be determined through the site specific planning of the Portola Center project.

Technical Answer

The units to be developed as part of the mixed use (commercial/residential) component of the project would be located on the 3 upper floors of the 4-story mixed use building(s). The size of these units will vary between 512 and 525 square feet.
In addition to compliance with the standards and guidelines in the Area Plan, the Mixed Use Component of the project required a Site Development Permit. A Site Development Permit (SDP 10-15-4843), for a mixed use building, including 10,000 square feet of commercial space, 57 affordable senior units and one market rate housing unit was approved by the City Council on May 17, 2016.
The 18 accessory living quarters/second units would be attached to single-family homes and subject to the requirements of Lake Forest Municipal Code (LFMC) Section 9.146.050. Pursuant to the provisions of LFMC Sec. 9.146.050, second units must be architecturally compatible with the primary unit and consistent with the height limit in the zone. In addition, second units are limited to 640 sq. ft. of total floor area.

How will the proposed affordable housing units be monitored to ensure they remain compatible with the existing community?

Bottom-Line Answer

The Portola Center draft Affordable Housing Implementation Plan (AHIP) requires that the affordable housing units be managed by an experienced company who will income qualify families, ensure family sizes are appropriate for the unit, and enforce maintenance standards.

Technical Answer

The Portola Center draft Affordable Housing Implementation Plan (AHIP) requires that an experienced company manage the affordable housing units. The property management company will be responsible for developing and implementing an annual monitoring plan. The plan will facilitate qualifying the income levels of potential tenants, ensuring family sizes are appropriate for the unit, and enforcing maintenance standards.

Are affordable housing units available anywhere else in Lake Forest?

Bottom-Line Answer

Yes, a number of affordable housing units are available in Lake Forest. The majority of these are apartment complexes located at Rimhurst Drive, Normandale Drive, Vintage Woods Road, and Canada Road.

Technical Answer

There are approximately 250 affordable housing units throughout the city. Affordable housing units are distributed throughout numerous privately owned and maintained communities. These are a combination of condominium units and apartment units, located on Serrano Creek Road, Rimhurst Drive, Normandale Drive, Vintage Woods Road, Canada Road, and Bellecour Way. Several affordable housing units are located near some of the city’s most exclusive neighborhoods. The majority of these projects were entitled by the County. Over the years, the existing units have blended seamlessly with the market rate units and have not caused any issues of concern for the city.  If you have questions or need further assistance on Affordable Housing, please contact Ron Santos, Senior Planner at (949) 461-3449 or