L.A. City Council Moves Forward on Zoning to Retain Affordable Housing

Public Housing project in prefabricated concrete slabs in the Berlin district of Wedding. Berlin, Germany

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - The Los Angeles City Council voted today to start the process of creating zoning that could protect low-income communities from the economic effects of luxury housing complexes that do not provide ``affordable'' units and could drive up nearby property values.

Los Angeles City Council President Herb Wesson proposed creating the zoning overlay in September.

``We don't just need more housing units. We need more housing units that working people can afford,'' Wesson said then. ``Building market-rate housing, when that means $1,800 for a one-bedroom apartment, is not an adequate solution to this crisis. With this measure, Los Angeles is telling developers, `If you want to build in Los Angeles, affordable units need to be a part of the package. Our goal is to achieve balance.'''

A letter Wesson sent to the council's Planning and Land Use Management Committee in late October asks that minimum requirements be set on the amount of affordable housing units made available in newly constructed housing complexes that are near economically disadvantaged neighborhoods.

Wesson has proposed putting ``anti-displacement zones'' around luxury apartment complexes and other housing where no affordable units are offered, which would be a two-mile radius around the building for three years, and cap rent increases within the zone.

The City Council voted 11-0, without discussion, to study the feasibility of creating anti-displacement zones.

In his proposal, Wesson acknowledged luxury apartments and condominiums have the ability to enhance economic prosperity, but he said long- established communities that aren't suited to take on quickly rising property values could be upended when such housing is constructed.

Wesson addressed the South Los Angeles Area Planning Commission in September after sending a letter in opposition to what he described as a planned ``luxury'' 577-unit apartment complex on Crenshaw Boulevard that he said would be unaffordable to the area's current residents.

``The original plan was designed to build up the area so that members in the community could use these local amenities, improve their everyday lives and strengthen the economy of our neighborhoods,'' Wesson wrote.

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