For many months, Abundant Housing LA members and volunteers have been dedicating their time to work on an obscure, technical process called the Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA). A component of the State Housing Law, RHNA determines the amount of housing we are required to build over the next eight years, and then allocates that number to different cities and jurisdictions in the region.
Despite many telling us this fight was impossible or futile, we continued full-force and delivered a major housing victory for the entire region, one that will force upzoning and additional funding for affordable housing in almost every city in Southern California.
Until this process, few of us were familiar with the acronym “SCAG”–the Southern California Association of Governments–which is the regional body that administers RHNA. Trying to explain SCAG to someone recently, they said, “I’m familiar with city governments, county governments, and state governments, but what kind of government is this?” As a Council of Governments, SCAG operates mostly behind the scenes. Even though all L.A. City Councilmembers and the Mayor of L.A. are SCAG board members, any attendance on their part has historically been unusual.
The first part of Abundant Housing LA’s advocacy strategy was a RHNA workshop for our volunteer activists. Soon after our workshop, SCAG had its first major action when it established a total housing goal of only 430,000 homes for the entire 18 million-resident region for the next eight years. With an existing housing deficit in LA County alone of over 500,000 subsidized affordable homes, the idea of only 430,000 new homes across six counties over the next eight years was absurd. Thanks to UCLA Professor Paavo Monkkonen–who has worked tirelessly to hold SCAG accountable by serving on the RHNA subcommittee–Abundant Housing LA was able to counter SCAG’s number with our own recommendation of a range as high as 2.7 million homes, which more accurately reflected the region’s housing needs. We advocated for this better number to SCAG, Governor Gavin Newsom, and any and all policymakers who could weigh in on the process.
As a result of this advocacy, the Governor, through the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD), increased SCAG’s RHNA number to 1.34 million, which was on the low end of the range we endorsed. HCD agreed with AHLA’s and Paavo Monkkonen’s recommended method for calculating the region’s housing needs.
Though SCAG objected to the 1.34 million number, we continued to leverage key decision-makers to ensure HCD stayed committed to its recommended target. As a result, HCD only lowered its recommendation by 2,000 units, which was another a major win for housing advocates.
If you’re still following along, can you believe it only got more complicated from here?
With HCD’s 1.34 million homes recommendation, SCAG’s response was to assign the bulk of that new housing growth to far-flung suburban and rural areas far into the desert, like Coachella Valley and Riverside. Coachella may be a place some people go to experience the annual music festival, but it’s not a place where people can live when they work in communities like Santa Monica or Downtown Los Angeles. In its recommended assignment of the 1.34 million new homes, SCAG assigned low housing targets for wealthy, exclusionary cities.
The results of our efforts went beyond even our most optimistic visions. We achieved record attendance at the SCAG Regional Council meeting that took place this week, on November 7th, including 11 of LA City’s 15 Councilmembers, and LA Mayor Eric Garcetti. Many advocates and representatives from other coalitions attended as well. After hearing some of the most moving pro-housing speeches in recent memory, the SCAG Regional Council voted in a landslide 43-19 in favor of the plan we were supporting, which the LA Times was calling the “Coastal Plan,” because it assigns larger amounts of housing to jobs-rich coastal cities, and smaller amounts of new housing out in car-dependent suburban regions. The few anti-housing voices who were present and spoke in favor of business as usual were, finally, in the minority.
What happened represented more than just a better direction for the next eight years of housing planning in the region. It was a total culture shift. For the first time ever in L.A. politics, there was a strong consensus on the urgency and necessity of planning for more housing in our core cities, backed up with a meaningful, binding commitment to that goal.
Now, we need to see this process through and ensure that cities do everything they can to meet the state-mandated RHNA targets. Over the next year, every one of the SCAG cities will need to update their General Plan Housing Elements to accommodate their portion of the RHNA forecast, which will mean a major change from business as usual. While some will see these targets negatively, because they represent difficult change and hard work, we see them as a symbol of hope–the first step in relieving our region from out-of-control housing prices and rising GHG emissions.
For this next phase, we will need all of you more than ever. Every single city in the region will be updating their housing plans to accommodate historic growth targets. We need your help to hold them all accountable and ensure that these plans are realistic, equitable, and sustainable.
One of the biggest opportunities with this RHNA process will be its impact on enabling the creation of much more affordable housing, throughout Southern California and especially in coastal areas, but that will only happen in a rational and meaningful way when your city’s leadership hear from you, supporting them doing the right thing. Our engagement in this process over the last several months has achieved significant success, and now is the time that we need each and every one of you to step up in support of city efforts to allow for all this new housing.
Abundant Housing LA and YIMBY Action are teaming up for a fun event in Long Beach! YIMBYest of legislators Senator Scott Wiener & Assemblymember David Chiu will toast the night, and other pro-housing legislators (in town for the Democratic Convention) will likely stop by.
Increase the density of this party by RSVPing now!
Department 82 at 111 North Hill Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012Map
Note - Fix the City has postponed their hearing to November.
Come help us protest Fix the City - an ultra NIMBY organization that sues against housing and density.
Fix the City is suing the City of LA over the Expo TNP (which increases housing zoned capacity along the Expo) and over TOC, which is a policy promoting more housing density and subsidized affordable housing.
We need to show up and tell these NIMBYs that enough is enough. We have a housing crisis, an affordability crisis, a homelessness crisis, and a climate crisis! Exclusionary tactics like these are no longer acceptable. At a time when we need a huge increase in housing, Fix the City is using baseless lawsuits to make even *less* housing possible.
---This advocacy opportunity is easy for those who live/work near DTLA - just stop by around lunch! It's right at the Civic Center metro stop----... See MoreSee Less
Helms Design Center, 8745 Washington Blvd, Culver City, CA 90232Map
Join Abundant Housing LA for a panel discussion on the impacts of the housing crisis on renters.
On the panel will be CA State Assemblymember Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica), who was instrumental in passing AB 1482 in the 2019 state legislative session , which caps rent hikes at 5% plus inflation. Assemblymember Bloom has also been actively involved in Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) reform and holding the region accountable for a compliant RHNA methodology.
He will be joined by Michael Lens, Associate Faculty Director of the UCLA Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies; Associate Professor of Urban Planning and Public Policy. Professor Lens' work evaluates the potential for housing policy to reduce this separation by focusing on neighborhood safety and access to jobs.
Alex Fisch, Councilmember in Culver City, will also be joining to share his perspective on the ways that Culver City is considering its renting population as it makes new housing policies, including rent freeze.
The panel will be moderated by Leonora Camner, Managing Director of Abundant Housing LA. There will be snacks & beverages.
**Parking for this event is not allowed at the Helms Bakery District.**
Please use transit to come to this event if possible. The Helms Design Center is a short walk from the Culver City Expo Station.
If you want to become a more effective advocate for housing, this event is for you!
Abundant Housing LA is proud to be a part of Everyone In, a campaign powered by United Way focused on ending homelessness across Los Angeles County.
Everyone In builds community support to encourage our elected leaders to find solutions that are permanent, not band-aids or quick fixes. The goal is simple: deliver on the promise that was made when 1.5 million voters who passed Measure H and Proposition HHH in 2016 and 2017 and ensure that each dollar is spent wisely and goes to the goal of providing services and creating supportive housing throughout Los Angeles.
Join Abundant Housing LA as we host this Supportive Housing Advocacy Training presented by Everyone In. We'll learn effective messaging and find opportunities for advocacy in support of housing for the unhoused.... See MoreSee Less
Hear both sides on SB 50! Is it what California needs, or is it the wrong direction?
Join us for this dynamic debate on a housing bill which, if passed, will bring significant changes to zoning and housing development across California.
Featuring Charles Loveman (representing the opposition side), Executive Director of Heritage Housing Partners (HHP), a non-profit affordable housing developer based in Pasadena, CA. He is the former Board Chair of The Waverly School in Pasadena, CA, is the former President of the Los Angeles Neighborhood Initiative (LANI), is the former Board President of the West Hollywood Community Housing Corporation, is a former member of the West Hollywood Planning Commission, is the former Chair of the West Hollywood Cultural Heritage Commission, and is a former Board Member of the California Preservation Foundation.
Randy Shaw, representing the supporting side for SB 50, is an attorney, author and activist who lives in Berkeley, California. He is the executive director of the Tenderloin Housing Clinic, a non-profit organization in San Francisco that he co-founded in 1980. Shaw also co-founded and is on the Board of Directors of Uptown Tenderloin, Inc., a nonprofit organization that spearheaded the creation of the national Uptown Tenderloin Historic District in 2009. Shaw is also the editor of Beyond Chron, and has written six books on activism, including "Generation Priced Out."
**The debate will take place in the 3rd Floor Community Room at Santa Monica Place. The Community Room is near the 3rd floor bathrooms**
Santa Monica Place is adjacent to the Downtown Santa Monica Expo Line stop.... See MoreSee Less