The reason Los Angeles has obscenely high rents is we haven’t built enough homes to house everyone who lives and works here. Those high rents, combined with stagnating wages, mean that too many families are scraping to get by.
More than half of Angelenos are renters, and around half of them spend at least 50% of their income on housing. The average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in LA is now $2,306 – meaning a full-time minimum wage worker would have to spend about 90% of their paycheck to afford rent. The median price of an existing, single-family home in the city of Los Angeles was $773,490 in February, up from $686,760 a year ago.
This crisis was largely created by racist housing policies. Redlining and segregation prior to the 1950’s excluded many Angelenos from neighborhoods with the highest economic opportunity and laid the foundation for the staggering racial wealth gap we see today.
By the 1960s, the city was zoned for up to 10 million people, and offered housing choices for all income levels through fourplexes, bungalow courts, and mid-rise housing. But during the 1980s’ Reagan Revolution, the federal government slashed funding for housing and California gutted social programs. At the same time, density came to symbolize urban decline, and wealthy neighborhoods further hardened housing segregation through exclusionary zoning. Single-family zoning became the norm, and by 2010, Los Angeles had shrunk the number of people it was zoned to house to just 4.3 million people.
Today, we need to add about 57,000 new units of housing each year for the next eight years, or about 500,000 units, in order to address our unmet housing need. Nearly 200,000 of those units must be set aside for lower-income residents.
As your Councilmember, to solve our housing crisis, I will focus on producing more housing, while prioritizing affordable housing, ensuring housing security by enforcing tenants’ rights and preserving existing affordable housing. Even amidst so many difficult and longstanding challenges,we have an amazing opportunity to build a better future for all Angelenos—to improve people's access to great jobs, schools and parks; enhance the vibrancy of our communities; fund critical public services; and tackle climate change with the necessary resolve and urgency.
1. Build housing faster
To build more homes, we need to be innovative and look for every possible solution, including:
Removing politics from individual land use decisions and eliminating bureaucratic hurdles to building homes
Typical approval time for projects in Los Angeles can take years. A housing project often must go through multiple government agencies, decision makers, and appeals. I will demand that City departments speed up and streamline approvals for housing, particularly for affordable units. Projects that comply with local community plan standards and building codes should be approved automatically and without unnecessary delay and political influence.
Converting office buildings into housing
The Council should pass Councilmember Mike Bonin’s proposal to allow for faster and easier conversions of unused commercial buildings into housing.
Utilizing LAUSD property
LA Unified School District owns 772 properties, totaling 6,382 acres. The City should partner with the district and affordable housing developers to construct housing for teachers, school staff, and neighborhood families on-site.
Supporting new density models such as “Livable Communities” which would allow for 3-5 story mixed-use buildings in job-rich commercial corridors that create livable communities with deeply affordable and dignified car-lite housing.
Accessory dwellings—also known as ADUs, granny flats, garage apartments, backyard cottages, or casitas—are less expensive to build than most other housing, and now account for more than 20% of LA’s new housing. The City should speed up the approval process for these units and support efforts to help low and moderate income homeowners finance ADU construction.
Allowing prefab construction “by right,” which could significantly reduce per-unit costs and bring more new housing online faster.
Limiting the abuse of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA)
The law has often been abused to block development, even high-density, environmentally friendly buildings. We need to maintain the important role of CEQA in protecting health and the natural environment, while preventing it from being abused and delaying badly-needed housing.
2. Prioritize building affordable housing
Right now, it takes too long to build badly-needed affordable housing—homes rented or sold at below-market prices to low and moderate income families. We need to speed up that process by:
Building affordable housing on public property
There are 14,000 publicly owned parcels in the City of LA, but many properties are being mismanaged or underutilized. The City must keep a well-managed database of these properties for affordable developments or commercial development, with the returns going back into affordable housing.
Expanding programs that already produce affordable housing
The Transit Oriented Communities (TOC) Incentive Program encourages the building of affordable housing near transit hubs, and has been highly successful in the five years it has been operational. We need to expand the size and overall scope of the program.
Expanding inclusionary zoning citywide
Inclusionary Zoning are policies that require any new development set aside a portion of new units for lower-income residents. We need to apply Inclusionary Zoning across the entire city of Los Angeles.
Investing in social housing
Los Angeles only owns 14 public housing developments, totaling 6,518 units. We need to dramatically expand the size and type of publicly subsidized housing and advance the decommodification of housing by supporting cooperatives and community land trusts.
Bringing greater coordination, predictability, and transparency to affordable project financing, which may require up to 15 different sources of funding, each with their own timeline and requirements. The City and County should continue building out a single digital application portal for developers to access all public funding sources and the City should go further in helping coordination between various approval processes.
Supporting new revenue sources for affordable housing, like the November 2022 United to House LA ballot measure, a vacancy tax, and/or a flipping tax.
Creating a land bank
Land banks acquire, manage, and redevelop abandoned and foreclosed properties to foster community development across the country. The LA County Board of Supervisors recently voted in March 2022 to study the creation of a LA County land bank. The City should follow the County’s lead.
Advocating for more private investment in affordable housing—for example, by encouraging charitable foundations to invest their endowments in building affordable housing.
3. Preserve existing affordable housing
Thousands of formerly affordable units have been converted to market rate housing in the last several years due to governmental indifference and inattention. That is something I will fight to change immediately, through:
Creating an Office of Tenancy Advocacy in the Housing Department
Paired with a Tenant Opportunity To Purchase Act, this office would train and support tenants to organize to purchase buildings directly. It would also guide renters who have housing vouchers to find housing, and advocate on their behalf to make sure they aren’t discriminated against.
Increasing support for Community Land Trusts and the Los Angeles Community Land Trust Coalition (LA-CLT), to enable the purchase and development of additional parcels in CD13 and across the city.
Buying pre-existing affordable housing to ensure units remain affordable for low income and moderate income households for years to come.
Extending expiring affordable housing covenants
More than 10,000 affordable units across the city will convert to market rates between 2019 and 2023 as their 30-year affordability covenants expire, threatening to displace thousands of tenants. The City should work with neighborhoods to extend those covenants.
Supporting AB 2050 and Ellis Act reform to require landlords to own rent stabilized buildings for at least five years before being able to convert them to condos.
Increasing enforcement against illegal Airbnbs to ensure badly needed units aren’t illegally being used for home-sharing and are instead available to Angelenos who need those homes.
4. Expand and enforce tenant protections
Because Los Angeles does not have enough affordable housing for all who need it, the City should take an active role in managing the existing market to ensure all who need shelter can get it, and stay housed. The longstanding power dynamic between landlord and tenant needs to fundamentally change through:
Adopting a right to counsel in eviction court, funded through the “United to House LA” ballot measure, to provide every tenant the lawyer they need to have a fair shot in eviction proceedings.
Adopting a legal “Right to Housing” framework in the city that expands the rights of tenants and Angelenos experiencing homelessness.
Establishing a Just Cause Eviction Ordinance to prevent unscrupulous landlords from arbitrarily evicting tenants from their homes and potentially require relocation assistance to those tenants who are displaced.
Creating a permanent Emergency Rental Assistance Program to continue to provide cash assistance to help vulnerable tenants stay in their homes, even as the Pandemic ends.
Strengthening and enforcing the Tenant Anti-Harassment Ordinance and create incentives for more landlords to accept vouchers
5. Make it easier for Angelenos to find a home
Beyond the continued lack of housing, too many barriers exist for people to access the housing that is already available. Many of those roadblocks help to perpetuate cycles of poverty, putting housing stability further out of reach for too many Angelenos. We can roll back these pernicious systems through:
Creating an easily searchable citywide rental registry, as championed by Councilmember Nithya Raman, to include information about rents, landlords, and any history of legal action regarding the landlord.
Speeding up the Housing’s Department’s effort to create an online inventory of all affordable units citywide to provide a single platform for tenants to apply.
Providing housing navigators, through the Office of Tenancy Advocacy, to voucher holders to help them navigate the system.
Expanding the Renter Access Ordinances to outlaw criminal background checks, credit scores, or algorithms screening tenants; and supporting AB 2203 (L. Rivas), a state bill that will ban the use of credit score checks for Section 8 voucher holders.
6. Create transparency and accountability
Housing should not be just an investment vehicle for corporations. It is a fundamental human need and should be a guaranteed right for all. We need to crack down on speculative housing and corporate ownership through:
Requiring disclosure of the ownership of Limited Liability Corporations (LLCs) that own large swaths of our city’s housing stock.
Supporting federal legislation to close loopholes that allow corporate owners to buy up multiple residential buildings, blocking out first time homebuyers and raising rents.
Implementing a vacancy tax, so that speculative developers aren’t sitting on neglected or blighted properties for years.
Increasing funding to the City’s Enforcement teams, to hold negligent landlords accountable.