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LA might hire a housing czar

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Someone to “ensure accountability” in the planning process

If the November 8 margin of victory for controversial affordable housing measure Build Better LA is any indication, Los Angeles residents have grown tired of skyrocketing rental prices brought on by a severe shortage of housing citywide. On the other hand, a very vocal group of concerned citizens continues to rail against the city’s planning process and policies that encourage density and a faster rate of development.

Given that somewhat paradoxical state-of-affairs, the LA City Council is now considering the possibility of bringing on a new staff member to try and sort out this mess. In a meeting Wednesday, councilman Paul Koretz asked the council to examine ways to improve oversight over the planning process, including potentially creating a new administrative position to “ensure accountability.”

“L.A. is a big city with more people than available housing, so we need to work with the development community and help them do what they do best in a way that works best for the most people,” Koretz said in a press release. “We need to look at our policies, our codes, our financing mechanisms and our approval processes ... and we probably need someone to make sure we do it methodically and effectively.”

Other cities, including New York, have officials who oversee the development of new housing and help to administer affordable housing policies. Given the passage of the Build Better LA Initiative—otherwise known as Measure JJJ—city officials will likely need to devise a way to ensure that developers abide by the rather complex set of requirements mandated by the new law.

Also at issue is a recent rise in mass evictions that has helped to decrease the city’s overall stock of affordable housing.

“[W]ith some new development displacing thousands of tenants from existing affordable units every year, we desperately need to get a better handle on what’s happening on every level,” said Koretz. “We can no longer afford to be losing as many, or more, affordable units than we generate, which has been our pattern for too long.”