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Ballot Measure JJJ

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Build Better L.A.

What's the proposal?

Measure JJJ would require developers to add affordable units to new residential buildings and would also require developers to hire local construction workers. The requirements would apply to all residential projects with 10 or more units needing special approval from the city because they’re bigger than what zoning codes allow.

Perhaps just as importantly, the measure is seen as a counter to a March ballot measure that would place a two-year moratorium on most major development in the city of Los Angeles.

In exchange for getting their projects built, developers would have to rent 20 percent of all units in condo buildings at rates that are affordable to low-income households. In rental projects, developers would have to allot 11 to 25 percent of the units to affordable housing. (The percentage required varies depending on whether the units are for extremely low, very low, or low income tenants, and whether the project allows for a residential use in an area where that use was not previously allowed.)

JJJ would also require that these project be built by licensed contractors, 30 percent of whom are Los Angeles residents and at least 10 percent of whom are "transitional workers," meaning they’re single parents, veterans, on public assistance, or chronically unemployed. They’d also have to live within a five-mile radius of the project. These workers would have to be paid the "prevailing wage" in the area, an average of area wages based on a formula created by the state government.

Developers who don’t want to include affordable units in their new projects would have the option to pay an "in lieu" fee straight to the city’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund or build affordable units off-site (they’d have to build more units the farther away from the project site they go).

Who's behind it?

The measure was the result of an effort on the part of a coalition of unions and community groups, including the Alliance for Community Transit-Los Angeles (ACT-LA); the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local Union 11; the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO; and the Southern California Association of Nonprofit Housing. (A hearty list of supporters can be viewed here, on the Build Better LA website.)

According to the Build Better LA website, major funding for the measure comes from the LA County Federation of Labor and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 11.

The back story

Los Angeles is experiencing a terrible triple threat: a housing shortage, rising housing costs, and stagnant wages. As a result, depressingly large percentage of Angelenos are burdened by their rents, meaning they spend more than 30 percent of their income on rent.

Arguments for

  • JJJ helps increase the city’s meager affordable housing stock and reaps benefits from the city’s development boom.
  • The measure will ensure that local workers are hired and paid a standard wage.
  • Tenant advocacy organization the Coalition for Economic Survival says that JJJ helps tenants and workers gain valuable benefits from development projects. Without the requirements imposed by the measure, big development projects would still be getting built, but without any benefits for renters or construction workers.

"What Build Better L.A. does is it lets Angelenos build homes that Angelenos can actually afford … It addresses a housing crisis in this city by ensuring that affordable homes are part of future projects. It ensures that jobs are given to local residents who are trained and equipped to construct those projects." -executive secretary-treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor Rusty Hicks, speaking to the LA Weekly

Arguments against

  • Because building affordable housing requirement could cost developers more money, they might try to recoup costs by charging market-tenants more—or not build at all.
  • The Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce is concerned the measure’s pay requirements for workers and "inclusionary zoning mandates" would actually make it harder for affordable housing to get built.
  • The Los Angeles Times Editorial Board says "two smarter affordable housing proposals" are in the works right now—one proposed by Mayor Eric Garcetti and a "value-capture" proposal from Councilman Mitch O’Farrell.
  • Tenant advocacy group L.A. Tenants Union says the measure doesn’t do enough to help house low-income renters stay in their homes and could increase displacement.

"This is not an incentive… This is hold a gun to your head." - Gary L. Toebben, president & CEO of the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, speaking to KPCC

Links for more info

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