Population projections beget households, households beget units and units beget Regional Housing Needs Assessments (RHNA) and those infamous housing elements. The current round of housing elements is based on the state Department of Finance (DOF) Demographic Research Unit's County Population Projections with Age, Sex and Race/Ethnic Detail:1990-2040. Since these population projections were completed in 1998, updated information – especially Census 2000 data – will beget new population projections that are likely to show significantly lower population increases by 2020, and, thus, the need for fewer housing units than projected. There are three reasons why the next round of projections should show lower future populations. The first is that the unadjusted Census 2000 count for California was 782,000 fewer than DOF's 2000 projection, or 2.5% less than expected. If the new set of projections uses this lower ‘benchmark,' the forecast 2020 population is reduced by 1 million (782,000 compounded at a rate of 1.33%). The second reason is that births to Hispanic women age 15-19 are less than projected. Because Hispanic births are the largest driver of natural population growth within the state, the impact of using new, lower birth rates in new projections should be significant. Demographers now think that the sharp increase in Hispanic births during the late 1980's may have been a ‘spike' resulting from the 1986 Immigration Control and Reform Act. More than 95% of the California's legalized population was Mexican or Central American with a median age of 32. Demographers speculate that with legalization came family reunions and a desire to "beget." More recent data show a decline in births of Hispanic women age 15-19 compared with the rates embedded in the 1998 projections. Should that lower rate continue, the Hispanic and the state's 2020 population is reduced by upwards of one million compared with the current DOF projections. Together, the lower Census 2000 count and the reduced Hispanic birth rate could bring a 2020 population projection that may be 2 million people fewer than the current projection of 45,450,000. The reduction would be proportionally greater in areas with large Hispanic populations, both now and in 20 years. The final factor behind lower future populations is more speculative and based on research and analysis that we at Solimar have completed on "ballot box zoning," urban growth boundaries, environmental restrictions (habitat protection, water availability, air quality impacts) and open space acquisition. All four trends make development difficult and more expensive and, coupled with our already high housing costs and current recession, might force a decline in migration to California — perhaps even more so than what DOF assumed in making its 1998 projections. According to DOF, net migration accounted for more than half of last year's population growth, which DOF officials view as a temporary situation that should have already declined. If net migration does fall and is captured in the next DOF projection, the result would further contribute to lower population projections. There is still the unresolved problem of the Census 2000 undercount, and the question of whether to add an estimated undercount figure. The initial Census 2000 undercount estimate for California was about 500,000, but the Census Bureau later rescinded the figure as unreliable. Two lower courts have decided against the Bush administration's claim that the adjusted numbers were protected by an exemption for information that is part of the decision-making process. Nevertheless, the official Census 2000 figure remains 33.8 million — well below what DOF and most other demographers anticipated. The next round of housing elements may not be as painful if the allocations are relatively lower. That is the good news for those many planners and elected officials who love to hate the RHNA process. The bad news is these projections only buy a few years' respite. The state's population will still continue to increase into the foreseeable future.