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LA City Council Tackles Planning Reforms, Addresses Affordable Housing Shortage
LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles City Council passed a series of planning reforms today to combat the affordable housing shortage in the City of Los Angeles by making it easier to build housing in more parts of the city. The Council approved legislation to address systemic inequity in our planning and land use policies which has contributed to the city’s current housing crisis.
The legislative package entitled From Redlines to Green Neighborhoods: Equitable Growth for Los Angeles references the abolished federal policy “Redlining” that has resulted in generational and systemic disinvestment in many neighborhoods and which continues to deny generations of black and brown families the ability to build wealth through homeownership.
“Too many hard working Angelenos can’t afford to live in this city and achieve upward mobility, and our zoning effectively tells them that we are not building housing for them and they are not welcome,” said Council President Nury Martinez. “Historically working class neighborhoods have continued to build, while wealthier neighborhoods have insulated themselves from the demands for growth. We need the entire city to be part of the solution for our housing crisis so we can become the equitable city we aspire to be - for blue collar workers juggling two jobs, for single moms saving for their kids’ futures, for young college graduates trying to afford their own apartment.”
Martinez’s motion seeks to address the city’s desperate shortage of housing. This will be done by directing the city’s Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) allocation to high opportunity areas of the city near jobs and transit, expanding existing programs that give incentives for developers to include affordable housing in new buildings, and ensuring that Community Plan updates have housing goals based on equity.
These goals in the motion were further detailed in a letter sent by Martinez to the Director of City Planning Vince Bertoni on the Draft Housing Element and was co-signed by six other Council Offices. Urging the department to seize this moment to tackle the housing crisis, the letter asks the Department to expand its rezoning program from 219,000 units to 300,000 units. It also asks for the department to remove barriers to housing production including removing zones that only allow parking along commercial corridors, creating a zoning overlay for housing that has a high level of affordability, and allowing more small unit multi-family buildings known as “missing middle housing” to be built. This includes structures like bungalow courts which are more affordable than other building types and which are also cherished for their charming architecture and human scale.
The lack of affordable housing has led to high rent burdens (rents which absorb a high proportion of income), overcrowding, and substandard housing. This, in turn, has not only forced many of the most vulnerable to become homeless; they have put a large and growing number of people at risk of becoming homeless, according to the National Coalition for the Homeless.
For decades, the City of Los Angeles, the surrounding region, and the State have critically underbuilt housing. This shortage has led to the city having some of the highest rents and home prices in the nation. The biggest impact of our housing shortage is on working class families of all backgrounds, who find themselves facing exorbitant rents and rendering the American Dream of homeownership and upward mobility out of reach. The Urban Institute has found that housing cost burdens (paying more than 30% of your income in rent) significantly limit economic mobility. Alternatively, homeownership has been shown to improve educational outcomes for children--increasing the likelihood that they will attend college.
Martinez’s motion and letter directs City Departments to implement these policies through an update to the city’s Housing Element, which is due to the State in October. The city will then have two years to create ordinances to put these policies into effect.