Housing Construction Skyline

The “Housing Advocate” is a bi-weekly collection of news stories and content related to the housing crisis here in Los Angeles. If you missed last week’s post, it can be found here

Welcome to Abundant Housing’s “The Housing Advocate!” These are some key stories that the AHLA Community has found relevant to the conversation among housing advocates at the moment. Here are the stories we found important this week:

1) CA Legislature Says Yes to ADUs in our Backyards

After we published our last edition of “The Housing Advocate,” it became official that the California state legislature passed multiple bills, including SB13, AB 68 and AB 881, that clear the path for homeowners who want to build multiple ADUs on their property. Several of these bills were co-sponsored by CA YIMBY, and accomplish many of Abundant Housing stated goals for ADUs here in LA: allowing ADUs on multi-family housing, allow 3 ADUs on a lot, decoupling the size of an ADU from the size of the main house. Most importantly, the bills also make it harder for cities (like Pasadena is currently doing) to use loopholes and fees to make building ADUs almost impossible

This is a major win: ADUs allow for the building of new housing supply with the most minimal disruptions to neighborhoods. Some have gone so far to say that this practically ends single-family zoning in California. ADUs alone will not solve California’s housing production problem; we need to pass more state-level legislation to create a lasting solution. However, we are eager to see the positive effects of these changes will have of affordability here in LA

2) Home-Owners and Gentrification

One of the biggest issues facing LA is how rising rents are displacing low-income tenants from their neighborhoods. Not only can gentrification disrupt the social fabric, but it also pushes residents to areas with less economic opportunity. Given this issue, we need to find proven ways to ensure housing stays affordable in our most vulnerable communities. Author and Tenant activist Randy Shaw recently wrote an article detailing how many of our conversations about gentrification are unproductive because they fail to shine a light upon the true driver of gentrification, who are homeowners in exclusive single-family neighborhoods. Shaw criticizes the framing of a recent New York Times article about gentrification, saying:

Homeowners’ role in gentrifying urban neighborhoods is not even suggested in the story. Instead, their opposition to development is honored”

Housing advocates need a new narrative about the change happening in our city, that focuses on the neighborhoods whose exclusive zoning practices are causing the rest of us to fight over limited housing resources. We need policies that can encourage housing to be built in neighborhoods that use exclusive zoning to price people out, which is a huge cause of gentrification in our city.

3) Supportive Housing in Echo Park and Chatsworth

The city council voted on September 11th to solicit proposals that would build permanent supportive housing for the homeless in Echo Park, on a plot of land currently being used by the non-profit El Centro Del Pueblo for youth activities. The debate has been a messy and complex one, bringing sharp disagreements and rhetoric between city councilman. Supporters of the project argue that it will produce needed supportive housing for the homeless, while those who oppose it worry that the housing will come at the expense of a long-standing community center for youth.

We at Abundant Housing LA see the need for more housing, especially supportive housing, especially in neighborhoods like Echo Park that are dealing with sharp prices increases for residents. However, we also recognize the concerns of communities that come up when new housing proposals come at the expense of existing community assets. These two do not need to be mutually exclusive; we encourage the city to explicitly make a playground or community center part of the final project or find an alternative location if necessary. We need our city to invest and listen more in communities that have been historically marginalized, and ultimately, we think doing that will produce solutions that work for all parties involved.

Going forward, this illustrates the need to ensure Los Angeles is building affordable housing across our whole city. It is shameful that certain council districts, specifically, CD 12, have yet to contribute any housing for the homeless. Efforts are underway to build supportive housing and reverse this trend, but there is also active and powerful opposition. We stand with our friends at Everyone In, who are doing the hard work of advocating for these developments, and hope that we can start to see noticeable progress on the issue

4) SCAG RHNA Methodology Proposed

SCAG recently released its methodology for allocating housing among Southern Californias cities, as a part of our regional housing needs assessment (RHNA). We were pleased to see that their newest methodology includes transit, jobs, and housing costs as a part of their methodology. This win was in no small part due to the activism of Abundant Housing’s members, and their willingness to show up and advocate for a better process.

But we also could not have done it alone. We also want to thank Mayor Garcetti for being a key ally throughout the process. The mayor wrote a letter unambiguously telling SCAG that we need more housing AND a better methodology for the allocation of RHNA, which was a big factor in getting SCAG to change its approach. 

We hope that SCAG also removes local input as a factor in the methodology, as it uses past zoning and planning practices to effectively push housing into less developed areas, hurting the environment and climate goals.

As this process goes forward, we hope to continue to see it implemented in a way that makes our region more affordable, livable, and sustainable.

That’s all for this week. Come back in two weeks for another update!