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3 Biggest Ways to Boost Affordable Housing in LA


LA, like much of the nation, is struggling with affordable housing. To afford the purchase of a median-priced home in LA, the average household would require a 53% raise, according to Paul Habibi, a professor at UCLA Ziman Center for Real Estate, who says this situation threatens the economic vitality of the entire state. Here are three ways he says we can help.

1. Expand Density Bonus

Paul says the classic LA sprawl, which created the suburbs as we know them, has created the unmanageable congestion and lengthy commutes LA residents endure. According to the city, only 187 market-rate projects between 2008 and 2013 employed density bonuses, bringing in 1,406 units of affordable housing. Paul says the city should loosen qualifying thresholds and expand the size of the bonuses. 

2. Amend Site Plan Review 

In the late '80s, neighborhood groups filed lawsuits that forced the city to enact the site plan review process, which has the planning department assess if a project that would add 50 residential units or 50k SF of commercial space is compatible with the surrounding neighborhood. As with CEQA, Paul says these groups routinely abuse this process to stall, water down or block development. He says projects that meet design guidelines and reach local affordability goals should bypass site review. 

3. Utilize the EIFD

Redevelopment was, of course, affordable housing's best friend. With the approval of SB 628 last September, the state authorized the establishment of Enhanced Infrastructure Financing Districts (EIFD), which somewhat resemble redevelopment. Paul says EIFDs provide cities and counties a way to seek funding for construction of affordable housing without additional taxes on residents or fees on developers.