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LA requiring developers to put affordable housing on city-owned land

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“Affordable housing production is essential to alleviating and preventing homelessness,” says councilmember

Aerial view of Los Angeles
Los Angeles.
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Starting January 1, new homes built on city-owned land will have to provide the most affordable units possible, a move that one local nonprofit calls a “necessary step” toward addressing the critical shortage of available housing for low-income Angelenos.

The Los Angeles City Council unanimously signed off on the new rule Tuesday.

Under the rule, new residential buildings will have to be 100 percent affordable unless the council determines a developer could provide a higher number of affordable units by adding in some other mix of housing, including market-rate.

For example, if the city gets two development proposals, one for 50 affordable units and one for 10 market-rate units and 60 affordable units, it will select the latter.

“Our objective as a city is to maximize the number of affordable units,” said Councilemember Paul Krekorian.

Councilmember Herb Wesson Jr. introduced the idea in November, writing in a motion that “affordable housing production is essential to alleviating and preventing homelessness.”

Helmy Hesserich, director of housing strategies and services for the city’s Housing and Community Investment Department, told the council about a mixed-income project the department has in the works now where market-rate units in the project exist to pay for the cost of replacing the parking spaces that were lost by building the project—a pricey requirement the city had to meet under its own rules to build on the site.

Hesserich said the department already aims for 100 percent affordability on city land.

It has 39 projects locked in on publicly owned land, she said said, and all are 100 percent affordable, with the exception of that mixed-income project.

It is “impossible” to know exactly how many city-owned parcels stand to be affected by the City Council’s action on Tuesday. The city is continuously evaluating its properties to see which ones are “under-utilized” and could be suitable for housing, according to Yolanda Chavez of the Chief Administrative Officer’s office.

“We’re really looking at every possible option,” Chavez says.