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State says LA isn’t building enough housing—along with 525 other California cities

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Cities that don’t meet their goals will need to approve projects more quickly

Construction in Los Angeles
Because of a new state law, projects in LA with at least 50 percent affordable units will benefit from a streamlined review process.
Kit Leong | Shutterstock

The vast majority of urban areas in the California—including Los Angeles—are failing to approve enough housing, a report released this week by the state Department of Housing and Community Development shows.

As a result, the state will now require those cities to make it a little easier for developers to construct projects that include affordable units.

For a more than four decades, cities and municipalities across the state have been required to set housing goals every five to eight years in order to ensure that construction of new homes keeps up with population growth.

As the HCD’s report shows, almost none of them are actually meeting those goals.

In all, only 13 cities made “sufficient progress” toward hitting their targets last year. A few of them—including West Hollywood, San Fernando, and Beverly Hills—are in Southern California (though Beverly Hills had to permit just three homes to meet its goals).

The 526 cities that came up short will be required to speed up approval of certain new developments, thanks to a new state law that went into effect January 1.

Under the new law, if cities fail to meet targets for market rate housing geared toward residents making more than a moderate income, they’ll have to streamline review of developments that include 10 percent affordable units.

Cities that meet their market rate goals but fail to make thresholds for new housing affordable to low-income residents will have to streamline projects in which at least half the units are affordable.

Map of SB 35 cities
Under Senate Bill 35, these cities will have to streamline many new housing developments.
California Department of Housing and Community Development

Though Los Angeles is on track to meet its overall goal of permitting roughly 82,000 new homes by 2021, the city fell short in its affordable housing construction.

Of the 45,820 units the city has permitted since its current goals were established (in 2014), only roughly one in 10 have been affordable.

The city has exceeded its goal for market-rate units three years early, but it’s woefully behind schedule for affordable housing development. By HCD’s standards, the city should have approved at least 37.7 percent of units set aside for low-, very low-, and moderate-income residents. Instead, just 20.9 percent, 13.1 percent, and 2 percent, respectively, of such units have been cleared for construction.

That means the city will need to approve well over 40,000 affordable units by 2021 in order to reach its housing goals.

Since Los Angeles is behind schedule, planners will have to speed up approval of projects with 50 percent affordable units. Other cities, like Santa Monica, Burbank, and Long Beach, will have to speed up projects with just 10 percent affordable units.

Developers in these cities looking for a quicker approval process will still have to meet certain guidelines to qualify. Their projects will have to be located on an infill site (one that’s already been developed or is surrounded by other developments) and will need to comply with local zoning requirements wherever they want to build.

The new rules are meant to prod cities into allowing new development in order to address a statewide housing shortage contributing to escalating home prices and rents unaffordable to many residents.

Los Angeles in particular is woefully short on affordable housing. A recent estimate from the California Housing Partnership Corporation indicated the city needs more than 500,000 new affordable units to satisfy demand.