Red Lines to Green Neighborhoods
In the 1930s, regions were given a variety of labels based on race that would determine whether or not mortgage lenders and realtors made loans or guided buyers towards that area. While White, non-immigrant communities were seen as most desirable, communities with racial and religious diversity received C’s or lower. These ratings gave rise to redlining, the practice of denying mortgages in communities due to racial or ethnic composition regardless of qualifications and creditworthiness of individual residents.
The negative impacts of these practices are still affecting Americans today. According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s data, while 74% of white households were homeowners in 2021, only 44% of Black households and 48% of Hispanic households owned their homes. We have to take active steps to close this gap and make sure affordable housing is available to all Angelenos.
In 2021, the Los Angeles City Council passed a series of planning reforms 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 continues to deny generations of black and brown families the ability to build wealth through homeownership.
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.
The Los Angeles City Council unanimously approved revisions to the City’s Housing Element that would establish one of the most ambitious rezoning programs in the nation and address the systemic inequity in planning and land use policies that has contributed to the city’s current housing crisis. The ambitious rezoning program would rezone parts of the city, in order to allow for over 250,000 new housing units within three years of the plan's adoption. This plan puts Los Angeles on track to meet the state’s request for nearly 500,000 new units by 2029.
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.
In addition to housing production, the plan also focuses on preventing displacement and advancing racial equity and opportunity. The Housing Element includes anti-displacement strategy studies, eviction defense programs, inclusionary zoning studies, a Citywide Housing Needs Assessment, and a focus on rezoning in higher opportunity areas.
The city will have three years to create ordinances to put these policies into effect. Technical amendments to the City’s Safety and Health Elements were also passed to reflect the update of the Housing Element in accordance with state laws. Rezoning will take effect through active community and neighborhood planning efforts, citywide rezoning efforts, and affordable housing incentive programs.