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Friday, Aug 19, 2022

New Year, Old Housing Shortage

Just like you and I, our elected officials kicked off the year with their New Year’s resolutions. They envisioned what they want to accomplish for the year given what is voiced by their constituents. They discussed their priorities and how they’re going to tackle each one. And the different types of policies that will be put in place to ensure they accomplish their goals. 

Obviously, each year the list changes based on their previous successes. Past goals and accomplishments have included more access and resources for small businesses. Working toward ensuring education is properly funded in lower income communities. Tackling climate resolve. Better access to health care. Transportation and infrastructure upgrades. However, the one that seems to make it on the list every year, but never seems to get resolved, housing – or affordable housing for that matter.

We hear California is suffering and has been suffering from a housing crisis. The supply isn’t meeting the demand, which in turn causes the supply to be unattainable and unaffordable for those who are in the market. The Southern California Association of Governments prepares the Regional Housing Needs Allocation every eight years, which quantifies the need for housing within each jurisdiction during specified planning periods. It’s mandated by State Housing Law as part of the periodic process of updating local housing elements of the General Plan.

Now, SCAG has now expanded its role beyond RHNA to support local government and stakeholders to develop and adopt land use plans and other programs that accelerate housing production and help meet the region’s goals for producing 1.3 million new units of housing by 2029.

But let’s take a step back. Throughout the past several years, our region has faced different measures and ordinances that were put into place to “alleviate California’s housing crises.” Queue in a few of these “solutions” … 

Measure JJJ – the Build Better LA Initiative. The measure passed with nearly 64 percent of the vote and was intended to set affordable housing mandates and hiring restrictions favoring local laborers on residential projects requiring a zoning change or an amendment to the city’s General Plan. It also was written to create incentives for developers building near transit stops.

We all remember the City of Los Angeles’ Linkage Fee. This fee created a permanent source of local funding for the development of affordable housing. The ordinance established a fee on identified types of market rate development, which would be used to fund the creation of affordable housing across the city. It was meant to help address the impacts of new development on the demand for affordable housing.

Measure H, the Los Angeles County Plan to Prevent and Combat Homelessness, created a one-quarter of a cent sales tax, which generates funds for the specific purposes of funding homeless services and short-term housing.

Lastly, Gov. Gavin Newsom’s California Comeback Plan. The plan is supposed to bring over 84,000 new housing units and exits from homelessness, including $1.75 billion in affordable housing funding for the California Housing Accelerator. Three different housing bills were also signed into law to help fight the state’s housing crisis and alleviate homelessness.

Senate Bill 8 extends the Housing Crisis Act of 2019 to jumpstart more housing production.

Senate Bill 9 gives homeowners additional tools to add critically needed new housing and help ease California’s housing shortage.

Senate Bill 10 establishes voluntary, streamlined process for cities to zone for multi-unit housing — making it easier and faster to construct housing.

We can continue to list all the different measures and ordinances brought either by local, county or state officials, but there is one question to be asked. Where is the housing that the above measures were supposed to bring? Why is California still in a housing crisis? Why is the homelessness population throughout the county out of control? Weren’t these measures and taxes meant to end, if not, alleviate these issues?

The city and county of Los Angeles both have had quite enough time to develop a plan to build housing, affordable housing, to meet the current demand. Both county and city have proposed, and passed, numerous laws that were meant to alleviate the housing crisis. Unfortunately, we haven’t moved forward nor stayed in the same place. We’re moving backwards. 

As population and demand grows for housing throughout Los Angeles, no reasonable or feasible solution is being proposed. The state now looks toward the primary elections where candidates will face housing and homelessness as their biggest issues. And as we jump into the November election, California may vote on (another) housing ballot measure, which will provide that a city law on land use policy, zoning, or development standards overrides conflicting state law, with exceptions. 

And so, it begins again… 

Stuart Waldman is president of the Valley Industry and Commerce Association, a business advocacy organization based in Van Nuys that represents employers in the San Fernando Valley at the local, state and federal levels of government. 


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