BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE
The purpose of this document is to guide internal decision-making regarding AHLA’s policy and legislative advocacy. Racial Justice and Equity is intended to be built into our internal policies by cross-comparison to other AHLA documents and policies.
At Abundant Housing LA (abbreviated “AHLA”), we seek to support solutions that advance the interests of all people in LA County. We stand by our mission to create a more prosperous, sustainable, and diverse region where everyone can afford to live, we must recognise the disgraceful legacy left behind by decades of unjust discrimination against communities of color, especially how planning mechanisms were specifically targeted against Black and Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC), across the United States and Greater Los Angeles – a legacy which stands in the way of achieving our mission.
We at AHLA are aware that when navigating spaces that seek to achieve homes for all people, we must understand and reflect upon the history from which today’s systems of discrimination and racism originate from and continue forth in the stories, language and decisions by decision-makers that prevent access to affordable, multi-family housing in neighborhoods with the highest opportunities for educational attainment, good jobs, and better quality of life.
We at AHLA are committed to eliminating racial inequities in
housing both within and outside of these pro-housing spaces
First, we must continually acknowledge that our homes were built on Native land. The Original Peoples of Los Angeles County include the Gabrielino-Tongva, Tongva Kizh, Chumash, and Tataviam people. Prior to 1492, Native peoples ensured every member of the community had a home. We share a fundamental human responsibility to ensure that as the people who came after, we can say the same. Unfortunately, today’s society has failed to house nearly 60,000 people, a reported estimate of which includes 565 homeless American Indians and Alaska Natives.
Secondly, segregation perpetuates a cycle of poverty and racial injustice by limiting access to schools for children of color and low-income children. Low-density, exclusionary zoning means that the highest opportunity neighborhoods are off-limits to only the wealthiest people, often a majority white and European Americans). We know this to be true not only due to the well-documented history of racist policies and decision-makers at every level of government, but also because we continue to see single-family zoning that closely mirrors historically redlined neighborhoods.
For example, the 2010 census data show that 60% of Los Angeles’s Black and African-American communities live in neighborhoods where few white residents live. What this means is that our history of racism and segregation continues to live on, a disparity that has been fueled by centuries’ worth of systemic racism and discrimination.
Understanding, acknowledging, and addressing the historical legacy of racism is fundamental to achieving a more equitable future.
Many issues of historical racism contributed to the lack of housing justice that exists currently. For example, Jim Crow laws, which legalized racial segregation, existed for about 100 years and were meant to marginalize African Americans by denying them the right to vote, hold jobs, get an education, and access other opportunities. On top of that, the intentionally racialized highway construction aimed to eliminate “blight” by harming and displacing communities of color in Los Angeles and throughout America, such as with the Interstate 10 construction. This practice resulted in the literal removal of homes occupied by communities of color.
Similarly, in Los Angeles, the land belonging to the Chavez Ravine community was violently stolen and many generations of families were displaced, just so that the City could build Dodger’s Stadium. And on a larger level, historical and continuing mass incarceration means that justice, dignity, autonomy, and economic access continue to be unavailable to BIPOC. These are just a few examples of the many injustices committed against BIPOC that continue to affect inequality in Los Angeles, and the housing crisis in particular.
ANTI-RACIST SOLUTIONS IN THE HOUSING SPACE
Discrimination in and barriers to housing are an issue for many groups of people, including but not limited to LGBTQ+, seniors, people receiving public assistance, families with children, people with disabilities, and immigration status. All of these groups of people face unique housing challenges and must be included in any equity analysis, and because we continue to see racial disparities even within these groups we know that we end up addressing the needs of all people when we lead with race.
Housing density is central to the issue of racial justice and equity.
The current housing situation is deeply inequitable and must be changed to provide affordable housing to all people, regardless of racial and ethnic background, income level, or any other marginalized identity. Having dense neighborhoods, on the other hand, filled with multifamily apartment buildings and housing of mixed incomes, would open up areas to inclusion and opportunity for racial and ethnic groups who continue to be ignored by those in power. Diversity, equity, and inclusion are fundamental to our main mission of housing affordability, livability, and environmental sustainability and ultimately lead to justice.
However, it is simply not enough to just increase housing density. Because our cities are planned for housing based on a car-dependent transportation system, only people who can afford to own a vehicle, park it, maintain it, and insure it have adequate transit access. Due to the fact that there is an inherent link between a healthy people and a healthy planet, and that low-income communities of color are disproportionately impacted by car pollution, the way to do that is not through increased vehicle ownership. We must have dense, multifamily housing that allows us to have an expanded transit system with more riders, which is fundamental to achieving inclusion, equity, and a healthy planet.
Because of this, racial justice and equity must be a focus of Abundant Housing LA and we must strive in all of our work to achieve this. This document lays out our position and strategy both internally and externally.
INTERNAL ORGANIZATIONAL GOALS
It should be noted that the principles of diversity, inclusivity, and equity can be found within the employee handbook. These are merely goals we have set as a growing organization with a small staff. AHLA will:
- Work to increase diverse representation in membership, volunteers, and leadership by working with and connecting with organizations that work in or focus on marginalized communities, by:
- Co-hosting with a larger variety of organizations
- Being supportive of other communities’ events
- Building more relationships with women academics who might know candidates
- Conduct in-person outreach in a variety of places, including CalStates and Community Colleges, to reach people of diverse backgrounds
- Ensure that over time our materials and content are accessible to a wide variety of backgrounds, needs, languages, and other ways that foster inclusivity
- Work to support projects that build housing for all people, especially those who have been targeted by racist systems
- Work to ensure that our policy platforms showcase the racial justice and equity benefits
- Incorporate history in awareness-building and education
- Develop policies for supporting and protecting staff from 3rd party aggression
- Develop internal training and activities to build awareness
- Support the organizational housing priorities of Black and Brown people.To this end, we will:
- Look to local community organizations that lead on solutions for their own communities.
- Conduct outreach to organizations that represent people from various backgrounds
- Do our own research as much as possible to learn what individual communities believe they need
- Build an equity analysis into all data and research work
- Incorporate diversity & inclusion goals into services the organization contracts with
EXTERNAL ORGANIZATIONAL GOALS
Abundant Housing LA’s full list of policies is outlined in our Policy Agenda. The general goals are:
1. Plan & Zone for More Homes
Planning and zoning for more homes means making sure that everyone can have access to a home they can afford, that meets their needs, where they want to live. Only by building more housing can we achieve this goal for people of all backgrounds and needs. Existing exclusionary zoning and land use policies exclude people, and are historically rooted in racial and economic segregation. AHLA believes in equity and racial justice as a core part of WHERE and HOW we upzone–that is why we support housing distribution plans that concentrate housing objectively in high-opportunity, job-rich, and transit-served neighborhoods. Land use and zoning policies can also help equitably provide access for people at all income levels to transit, since car-dependence serves to economically disadvantage people of lower incomes and contributes to the killing of Black and Brown people.
Planning and development has the potential to restructure how neighborhoods value and support life. Currently, planning and zoning serve to protect a way of life for white homeowners, and perpetuate the legacy of redlining. This is inherently anti-Black and anti-poor. A disruption to our planning and zoning model is necessary to reshape the way our communities serve all people.
2. Make it easier to build homes
Making it easier, cheaper, and faster to build homes brings down the cost of homes, which allows more people to find housing they need. As a part of this policy platform, we believe that costs should be even further reduced for subsidized affordable housing and supportive housing, which serves lower-income families and those that are unhoused. AHLA also wants to address unnecessary housing burdens which exist to privilege wealthier, whiter, and homeowner groups, and advocate for processes which fairly represent people of all backgrounds. These include CEQA, which is often abused for exclusionary purposes, Article 34, which was motivated in racist and classist exclusion of public housing, and other planning appeals processes that we have personally seen used to give a platform to those who only want to spew racist hate against those that will live in new housing.
3. Raise money for affordable homes
We know that the market cannot, by itself, adequately the needs of all, including low-income people. That is why we believe that money needs to be raised to fund affordable housing. Making sure that everyone has housing they can afford, regardless of their income or background, is an essential responsibility of all governments, and they must find the funding to achieve this. We support funding mechanisms that promote overall housing growth and environmental sustainability, like reducing parking minimums and density bonuses. Housing policies that penalize new residents, or discourage them, are fundamentally anti-equity.
Government spending on programs that enforce and perpetuate white supremacy, such as racialized policing programs, should be reallocated to affordable housing and other community benefits. Local governments should focus more resources on housing & health, protection of life, prevention of violence from cars and policing.
4. Protect tenants
Housing production must be paired with housing security and the protection of tenants’ rights. To achieve this, we actively promote pro-tenant advocacy and support leaders in tenants’ advocacy, including the right to counsel, right to remain, demolition protections, 1-1 replacement of rent-controlled housing, and right of first refusal. Tenants must be protected from discrimination and unjust evictions in order to achieve an equitable housing situation.
5. Encourage innovation in housing design, construction, and planning
To build housing for all, housing costs must be reduced. Outdated building codes and land use requirements that make it hard to build housing creates inequity in who gets housing and who can afford it. It makes our cities closed and furthers segregation. To address this, we propose housing policies that encourage innovation in design, construction, and planning, to make more housing available to everyone.
Through these actions and more, we believe housing justice and racial justice for all are possible.