In L.A. County, cities are now preparing their 6th Cycle Housing Elements, which will involve higher housing targets and tougher standards for selecting and analyzing suitable sites. The purpose of this process is to make sure every jurisdiction is taking responsibility for addressing our regional housing crisis. It is vitally important for every single city to get this process right. What we are doing as a region is planning for a historic amount of housing growth that has no precedent. The decisions that are going to be made in these Housing Elements will have a major impact on the region and the environment for decades.
California is in the midst of a housing crisis. Decades of resistance to new housing, especially in coastal communities, have resulted in unbearably high rents, worsened inequality, and displacement of low-income residents. Los Angeles County especially needs much more housing, for people of all incomes, near our growing transit system and major employment centers, if we ever hope to reverse these trends.
Abundant Housing LA is committed to education and advocacy on the affordability, livability, and sustainability benefits of more housing. We want lower rents and a more sustainable and prosperous region, where everyone has more choices of where to live and how to pursue their dreams. Density, when well planned, enhances the social and economic life of the city.
Carrying out the 6th Cycle Housing Element process will be challenging. But dismissing it on this basis is not an option. We must ensure that we are doing everything we can to further the objectives of this state process, which are:
(1) Increasing the housing supply and the mix of housing types, tenure, and affordability in all cities and counties within the region in an equitable manner, which shall result in each jurisdiction receiving an allocation of units for low- and very low income households.
(2) Promoting infill development and socioeconomic equity, the protection of environmental and agricultural resources, the encouragement of efficient development patterns, and the achievement of the region’s greenhouse gas reduction targets provided by the State Air Resources Board pursuant to Section 65080.
(3) Promoting an improved intraregional relationship between jobs and housing, including an improved balance between the number of low-wage jobs and the number of housing units affordable to low-wage workers in each jurisdiction.
(4) Allocating a lower proportion of housing need to an income category when a jurisdiction already has a disproportionately high share of households in that income category, as compared to the countywide distribution of households in that category from the most recent American Community Survey.
(5) Affirmatively furthering fair housing.
Based on these values and goals, Abundant Housing LA makes the following recommendations for Housing Element Updates:
- Increase zoned capacity by at least double the production target, or possibly more depending on past development patterns
- The Housing Element should be designed with the understanding that most zoned capacity will not be built out in the next eight years
- RHNA targets are not a cap. Cities should expect and plan to go above the market-rate target to create subsidized affordable units
- Consider super-density bonuses to help fund and build affordable housing
- The focus in the suitable sites inventory and zoning changes should be on legalizing widespread medium-density multifamily. More on this below
- Emphasize necessity of complying with State Law
- Ask WHERE and HOW to build the housing, not whether
- Ensure diversity in input and representation of residents from all backgrounds
- Contract with organizations that work with low-income communities of color for outreach
- Emphasize core values: Affordability, Diversity, Environmental sustainability, Equity
- De-Emphasize considerations that are not a part of core values
- Educate residents on the benefits of the Housing Element Update, and address false concerns and information
- Understand that backlash will occur and do not let it control the process
Raise Money to Build Affordable Housing
- Local bonds funded by parcel tax (e.g. Measure HHH)
- Tax on sale of property – progressive rate
- Divert airbnb tax to affordable housing
- Congestion pricing
- Charge more for street parking
- Give away public land to affordable developers
- Waive requirements for affordable projects when possible
Evidence-Based Suitable Sites Inventory
- Allow more housing in “high opportunity” neighborhoods. Identify locations based on objective measures – job accessibility, transit accessibility, air quality, etc.
- Only use parcels that are likely to be redeveloped
- Don’t plan building types that aren’t likely to happen
- Base the number of sites, sizes, and building types on past development patterns
- Spread upzoning and density beyond arterials. Arterials have the lowest air quality. Clusters are better for place-making and walkability. Importantly, integrating a mix of housing types into all neighborhoods is more equitable and reverses segregation.
- Consider areas known to the City to contain hazard vulnerability, and avoid those areas to the extent feasible,
Prioritize 4-story buildings over large developments
- Apartments in 4 story buildings are cheaper per unit, because they don’t require as much parking, on-site amenities, special construction materials, or engineering experts