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LA planning department wants to speed up construction of housing for the homeless

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A new plan would make it easier for projects to get approved

Homeless encampments Downtown
The proposed guidelines would steamline approval of permanent supportive housing projects meant to house the homeless.
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Last year, Los Angeles voters approved a $1.2 billion bond aimed at providing housing for the city’s rapidly growing homeless population. Now, the Los Angeles Department of City Planning has proposed new guidelines to accelerate the pace of construction for housing the homeless and formerly homeless residents.

The planning department notes that, under the city’s plan for combatting homelessness, around 1,000 units of permanent supportive housing will need to be constructed each year.

This type of housing is available to residents at affordable rates and includes access to services, such as counseling, addiction treatment, healthcare, and educational resources.

Right now, however, only about 300 units of supportive housing are constructed annually.

To address this problem, LA planners have outlined a new system under which projects that include permanent supportive housing could benefit from a streamlined approval process, which would allow the developments to speed through the planning process in under a year.

“Homelessness has reached epidemic proportions—and permanent supportive housing is a recognized solution to housing Angelenos living on our streets,” said Planning Director Vince Bertoni in a statement. “We cannot afford, as a City, to wait any longer before we act.”

Under the proposed guidelines, projects would be eligible for streamlined review if they include 100 percent affordable units, with at least 50 percent set aside for homeless residents. Supportive services will also have to be available onsite and, should the project require demolition of existing affordable units, each of those units will need to be replaced in the new development.

The projects would also benefit from slightly looser density limitations, since permanent supportive units are typically smaller than an average market rate apartment or condo.

They also won’t be subject to the same parking requirements as other buildings. That’s because units set aside for homeless residents won’t count toward the project’s minimum parking calculation.

If approved, the streamlined approval process should help affordable developers build more units faster. The only question is where those units will be constructed.

As KPCC reports, surging land values and political resistance have made it difficult for affordable developers to build housing in wealthier LA neighborhoods. Over the past decade, close to two-thirds of these projects have been constructed in neighborhoods with a median income of under $40,000.