Just ahead of last week’sThanksgiving holiday, the Los Angeles City Council adopted an ambitious update to the 2013–2021 Housing Element of the city’s General Plan, also known as the Plan to House LA, that establishes a blueprint for creating nearly 500,000 new housing units by 2019—five times the current rate of housing production in the city. This figure includes just under 200,000 income-restricted units that are sorely needed to expand affordable and equitable housing options to all Angelenos.
In a news release, the Los Angeles Department of City Planning, or LA City Planning, described the updated plan as one that sets out to “address the systemic inequity in planning and land use policies that has contributed to the city’s current housing crisis.”
The city is required by the State of California to revise its Housing Element framework every eight years while demonstrating “sufficient zoned capacity for housing to accommodate the number of units identified in the Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA),” per LA City Planning. Including the aforementioned figure established for the city, the RNHA stipulates that greater Los Angeles County needs to generate 1.3 million new residential units by 2029 to meet demand.
Following its adoption by the council, the plan also must be reviewed and certified by the California Department of Housing and Community Development.
“The housing crisis is one of the biggest and most pressing issues facing our city,” said City Council President Nury Martinez in a news release following the November 24 vote shared by Urbanize LA and other outlets. “While other cities have pushed back against their building obligations, our City has embraced this opportunity to develop one of the boldest housing plans in the nation and we hope to not only meet, but exceed, this challenge.”
Challenge is the key word here as creating almost a half-million new homes (456,643 total per the RHNA), while certainly within the realm of feasibility, will require the housing-strapped city to take a more aggressive approach than in the past. As detailed in the RHNA, the city needs to produce roughly 57,000 new homes annually to meet demand but has only generated around 16,700 per year since 2014. As for affordable housing, the city, under the newly adopted framework that calls for 184,721 new income-restricted units by 2029, the city will need to generate 23,000 units per year to meet the new benchmark. Since 2014, only around 1,650 affordable housing units in L.A. have been produced annually.
As detailed by LA City Planning, the revised plan allows for widespread rezoning efforts across the city to counter its seemingly eternal housing shortage; the move would enable the production of 250,000 new housing units within the next three years. The focus of the rezoning is to allow for greater density in single-family home-heavy neighborhoods that have been identified as “higher opportunity areas” adjacent to transit and other features. (Urbanize LA noted that the city’s housing woes can be traced back to the 1980s when zoning changes limiting dense residential development in certain neighborhoods were enacted just as L.A. was experiencing rapid population growth, and the city has never been able to catch up since.)
In addition to targeted rezoning, LA City Planning noted that the plan includes “anti-displacement strategy studies, eviction defense programs, inclusionary zoning studies, a Citywide Housing Needs Assessment, and a focus on rezoning in higher opportunity areas.”
“The Plan to House LA is designed to protect the most vulnerable Angelenos from displacement, eviction, and homelessness,” said director of City Planning Vince Bertoni in a statement. “It centers racial equity and environmental justice at the forefront of our planning considerations, aligning Los Angeles’ citywide land use strategies to improve future access to housing, preservation, and production.”
The city will have three years to create ordinances that put the policies outlined in the revised plan into effect.