City Council Passes Planning Reforms to Build More Affordable Units


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LOS ANGELES (CNS) - The Los Angeles City Council passed a series of planning reforms today in an effort to increase affordable housing units over the next several years and have them built equitably throughout the city.

“One of the root causes of why people must sleep on the sidewalks and in tents in our city is our broader housing crisis. For decades Los Angeles, the surrounding region and the entire state has failed to build enough housing to serve our population,'' Council President Nury Martinez said.

The council directed the Department of City Planning to develop an equitable rezoning program that would allow for 300,000 homes by 2029, up from the Housing Element Update draft's current goal of 219,732.

The planning department and the Housing + Community Investment Department released the Housing Element Update plan on July 1. It would accommodate the production of nearly 500,000 housing units, with more than 200,000 units reserved for lower-income residents.

Housing Elements serve as a guide for Los Angeles' housing policy. The most recent version was adopted in 2013 and remains in effect through the end of the year. The next one will be in effect through 2029.

Council members also instructed the planning department to:

-- explore new ways of ensuring that equity is at the core of future land use considerations;

-- develop a rezoning program to address the housing shortage and to report back on how it should be prioritized to require greater allocations of affordable housing in plan areas producing the least number of affordable housing unit;

-- update citywide affordable housing incentive programs, such as the density bonus; and

-- conduct a community housing needs allocation process and establish housing goals and zoning targets for each community plan area by income category.

The planning department and the Housing + Community Investment Department were instructed to:

-- report back every six months on housing production levels and give status updates on major milestones related to the Housing Element Update; and

-- align the city's existing affordable housing incentive programs to address the “missing middle,'' buildings that are between three and eight units that can be built on the same lots as single-family homes and therefore are considered an important tool.

City Planner Matt Glesne reported to council members before the vote that between 2009 and 2020, 15,886 units of affordable housing were produced in the city, but the distribution was uneven. Councilman Gil Cedillo's District 1 had the most produced, with 2,423, while Councilman John Lee's District 12 only produced 40.

Glesne also said that a majority of affordable housing is not produced in “high opportunity areas'' which have access to transit, jobs and other amenities. About 76% of the “highest resource areas'' are zoned only for single-family homes, while just 18% of “high segregation and poverty areas'' are zoned for single-family homes.

“This housing crisis is a result of the systemic inequalities in our planning and land use system. For decades, Los Angeles, like many other cities, suffered under the racist policies of red lining,'' Martinez said. “This has led to disinvestment in many neighborhoods, which have continued to deny generations of Black and brown families the ability to build wealth through homeownership.''

Glesne said the city's Housing Element Update, which will be presented to the council later this year, will tackle these issues.

The next version needs to allow the city to increase its current level of housing production by a factor of five and add about 57,000 new units of housing each year for the next eight years in order to address the housing shortage, the planning department reported on July 1.

The draft plan includes a rezoning program that would increase density in resource-rich neighborhoods that have been limited to single-family-only uses to create the capacity for 219,732 new housing units within three years. The City Council wants it increased to 300,000.

The Housing Element Update is due to the state in October, and then the city will have two years to create ordinances that put the policies into effect.

Copyright 2021, City News Service, Inc.

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