Homelessness and Affordable Housing in CD13

Homelessness and Affordable Housing in CD13

Homelessness and the lack of access to services and affordable housing is the most serious crisis facing the City. The City is the most unaffordable housing market in the country, and it is estimated that there are nearly 28,000 homeless people in the City. As the elected representative of the 13th District, Mitch committed from day one that he would work to combat homelessness using a three-pronged approach:

  • Protecting Tenants & Preserving Our Rent Stabilized Units
  • Working to Increase Our Supply of Affordable Housing
  • Providing Access to Services and Permanent Supportive Housing.

HOUSING

The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development defines “affordable housing” as housing that costs no more than 30 percent of a family’s gross income. Most Angelenos work hard everyday and yet many struggle to find access to affordable housing making it difficult to provide basic needs for them and their families. Unfortunately, Los Angeles is now ranked as the most unaffordable city in the country, with over 60% of tenants paying more than 30% of their household income for rent and over 30% of tenants severely rent-burdened, paying more than 50% of their income for rent.

Protecting Tenants & Preserving our Rent Stabilized Units

Mitch believes that one of our top priorities in the City must be to preserve our older housing stock and protect our existing tenants. In the City, most multi-family residential units constructed on or before October 1, 1978 are subject to the Rent Stabilization Ordinance (RSO) which requires that the property be registered with the Housing and Community Investment Department (HCID) and caps annual rent increases - generally to about no more than 3% a year. The RSO is also intended to protect tenants from illegal evictions, provide additional time for tenants to find a new home, and requires relocation assistance.

Although RSO units are not covenanted “affordable” units (meaning they do not have a deed restriction that regulates rent), they do provide de facto affordable housing for many of our residents because the units are older, generally below market rate and subject to rent stabilization. These units provide a home to many long-term tenants, especially the elderly. Because of this, there is a very low vacancy rate (roughly 3%) and it can be extremely difficult to find an RSO unit if a tenant is evicted. This is a big problem because the difference between the rent for an RSO unit and newer units not subject to rent stabilization is vast. Another problem is that a tenant may not be able to pay for annual rent increases which are not regulated by the RSO.  

Although the Ellis Act is a provision in State law that allows landlords to legally take RSO units out of the rental market in certain circumstances and the City must comply with State law, Mitch believes that we need to do better at the local level to strengthen our law and protect tenants from bad-faith evictions and preserve our RSO stock. Since Mitch took office, here are a number of ways he has worked to address tenant displacement and preserve our RSO units.  

  • Supporting State Legislation to Strengthen Tenant’s Rights - In 2016, Mitch introduced resolutions supporting two State bills that would (a) authorize the legislative body of any city or county to establish, as a condition of development, inclusionary housing requirements (mandatory affordable housing) and (b) under an Ellis Act eviction, provide a one year notice requirement to families who have children enrolled in primary or secondary school.

  • Closing Relocation Assistance Loopholes - While financial relocation assistance is required in most cases, there is an exemption to this requirement if the tenant received written notice, prior to entering into a written or oral tenancy agreement, that an application to subdivide the property for condominium, stock cooperative or community apartment purposes was on file with the City or had already been approved. When apprised of this loophole, Mitch immediately requested the City Attorney and HCID to close potential loopholes that allow developers to circumvent the payment of relocation assistance.

  • Request Analysis of Development Proposals on RSO Inventory - In June 2016, Mitch joined his colleague Councilmember Huizar in instructing the Planning Department to include a statement in its departmental reports each time a project is considered by the Planning & Land Use Management Committee which removes Rent Stabilization Ordinance (RSO) units, and which delineates how it impacts the City’s RSO inventory. Mitch strongly believes that the community and City Council need a comprehensive view of a proposed project so that they can fully weigh its impacts.

  • Denouncing projects that displace tenants - The first question that Mitch always asks of a property owner when presented with a project is: Are there existing tenants that will be displaced? If the answer is yes, his answer is no. If a project includes displacing tenants in an RSO building, Mitch sees it as a deal breaker, period.

  • Tenant Buyout Notification Ordinance - In December of 2016, Mitch and his colleagues approved a significant change to the rent stabilization ordinance to establish the “tenant buyout notification program.” This program will protect tenants from developers trying to circumvent requirements that require a landlord to pay tenants relocation assistance and fully inform tenants of their rights.

Historically, many renters have not realized that they’re not required to sign the buyout agreements -- which is a written agreement where a landlord pays a tenant money or other consideration to “voluntarily” vacate an RSO unit. In fact, under this “cash for keys” practice, tenants can often get much more money and time to vacate if they wait for landlords to formally file (with the city) to remove their units from the rental market. This process kicks in protections under the State’s Ellis Act, which allows tenants to stay longer, depending on their age and triggers relocation payments that range from roughly $7,000 to $20,000, based on the length of tenancy, age and any disabilities. The tenant buyout notification program that Mitch approved will help to ensure that tenants are fully advised of their rights when dealing with buyout offers and agreements between a tenant and his or her landlord.

Working to Increase Our Supply of Affordable Housing

While RSO units provide a more affordable type of housing option for our residents, “affordable” housing refers to housing with a specific rent restriction. Each year, the State publishes the median family income of a geographic region known as the “Area Median Income” (AMI). In 2016, the AMI for Los Angeles ranged between $62,400 - $64,800. A tenant whose income is 80% or less than the AMI is considered “low” income. A tenant whose income is 50% or less than the AMI is considered “very low” income and a tenant whose income is 30% or less than AMI is considered “extremely low” income.

When a property owner has received a land use concession from the City or is subject to a City ordinance or law that requires an affordable housing set-aside, the City requires the owner to record a covenant that restricts the rent level of the unit. The covenant obligates an owner to designate a specified number and type of dwelling units for occupancy by very low, low, or moderate income households, usually for a term of 30 - 55 years. Unlike RSO units, the percentage of income paid towards rent cannot change for the duration of the agreement even when an existing tenant moves out and a new tenant moves in.

Since Mitch took office, here are a number of ways he has worked to increase our covenanted affordable housing stock.

  • Value Capture/Measure JJJ - In September 2014, Mitch saw a lost opportunity to increase the City’s supply of affordable housing and requested the Planning Department move forward with a value capture policy that would establish a mandatory set aside of covenanted affordable units whenever a developer requested a zone change, general plan amendment or variance in lieu of case-by-case negotiations. Mitch was the trailblazer for this policy which became a key part of Measure JJJ and was passed with nearly a 64% vote in November 2016. Although, the City is limited to what types of amendments it can make to JJJ (any changes would have to go back to the voters), Mitch is committed to seeing if there is an opportunity to build off of and improve the value capture component of JJJ.

  • New Affordable Housing Units - Most property owners that come in to meet with Mitch about a proposed project know that one of the first things he is going to stress is the importance of affordable housing. Mitch works tirelessly to mandate that projects that come before City Council incorporate affordable housing on-site and that the units be covenanted for at least 55 years!

  • Affordable Housing Trust Fund - In addition to negotiating onsite affordable units, Mitch sometimes negotiates payment into the CD 13 Affordable Housing Trust Fund - a subaccount of the City’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund. This fund provides low interest loans to affordable housing developers. Between 2014-2016, this fund has helped hundreds of covenanted affordable units come to fruition in Council District 13!

  • Enhanced Infrastructure Financing District - In October 2014, Mitch began work to establish the City’s first Enhanced Infrastructure Financing District (EIFD) for the Los Angeles River. This groundbreaking opportunity would enable the district to capture revenue from the annual incremental increases in property taxes that the County already collects. Over the course of 5 to 10 years, this could generate a dedicated revenue stream for the L.A. River up to $50 to $90 million dollars which could be used for public works/transit projects, infill development, affordable housing and park space projects.

  • Hollywood Community Plan Update (HCPU) - Mitch is committed to tying additional development rights proposed in the HCPU to the provision of affordable housing so that as new housing units come online we ensure that we are building mixed income communities that preserve our diversity and build stronger, better neighborhoods.

  • Public Private Partnerships - Mitch believes that the City has a role in lending one of its most important assets - land -  to increase our affordable housing supply. To this end, Mitch committed to redeveloping a City-owned public parking lot in Hollywood into a vibrant mixed-use development, replacing the existing parking spaces while providing ample affordable housing. After a robust public process, Mitch and his colleagues selected The Actors Fund and Thomas Safran & Associates as the development team to create The Hollywood Arts Collective, a $35-million vibrant, new mixed-use, affordable and market-rate housing community intended for artists. The development, to be built on Hollywood Boulevard between Schrader Boulevard and Wilcox Avenue, will also provide a reinvigorated home for local non-profit arts organizations to support Hollywood as an accessible arts and entertainment district.

HOMELESSNESS

Providing Access to Services and Permanent Supportive Housing

Current estimates show that there are 28,000 homeless living in the City. This is the number one issue that Mitch and his team hear about. While this can be a polarizing issue, Mitch firmly believes that the City has an obligation to provide services and access to affordable, supportive housing. Below are a few highlights that show how Mitch is tackling this complicated issue around the district.

  • People Assisting the Homeless (PATH) - Since Mitch took office, he has contracted with PATH to outreach to the homeless three times a week. PATH works to provide the homeless with access to facilities, shelters and permanent or transitional housing.

  • Community Partners - Mitch and his team love to connect our community partners working to address our homeless crisis. By introducing local community partners such as Covenant House - one of the largest privately-funded child care agencies in the U.S. that provide services to homeless and runaway youth - to our local business community, Mitch has been able to establish relationships that have resulted in job training and employment. When given access to support and a second chance, many of these youth have been able to permanently get off of the streets and build a better life.

  • Measure HHH - Mitch supported Measure HHH - which voters overwhelmingly approved in November 2016, authorizing the issuance of up to $1.2 billion in bonds to pay for the construction of an estimated 10,000 units of permanent supportive housing, with wrap around services.

  • Comprehensive Homeless Strategy - In addition to the initiatives above, Mitch and his colleagues supported the Comprehensive Homeless Strategy which is a detailed approach to address homelessness with shared responsibilities between the City and County.

[SEE ALSO: City of Los Angeles Guidelines for Addressing Abandoned Property and Encampments, and Homeless Services]

The table below shows the housing and homelessness policies that Mitch has initiated since taking office in July 2013. 

Name

Description

Council File

Affordable Housing Policy/Incentives for Development

Requesting the HCID, Planning, CAO, CLA to develop policy initiatives that would encourage the development of affordable housing, permanent supportive housing, senior housing, workforce housing, veterans housing, etc. Further request that the report include possible sources for permanent funding to support the development of affordable housing.

13-1624

Boomerang Funds for Affordable Housing Trust Fund

Requesting HCID, CLA and CAO to report on a policy that would earmark a percent of the tax revenue the City receive from the dissolution of the former CRA for the Affordable Housing Trust Fund

14-1325

Value Capture Policy

Requesting Planning and HCID report on the feasibility of implementing a value capture policy that would establish a nexus between discretionary land use entitlements and affordable housing. Further instructs that the report include recommendations aimed at reducing costs associated with housing production.

14-1325

Enhanced Infrastructure Financing District (EIFD)

On September 29, 2014, Governor Brown, signed SB 628 (Beall) into law regarding the formation of Enhanced Infrastructure Financing Districts (EIFD). This new law will allow cities to create EIFD's to raise the necessary capital to invest in public works/transit projects, infill development, affordable housing and park space projects. This measure will also enable the City of Los Angeles to utilize EIFD's to benefit and improve the Los Angeles River. Restoration and beautification of the Los Angeles River is an established priority of the City as evidenced by the Council's adoption of the Los Angeles River Revitalization Master Plan. This motion instructs the Economic Workforce and Development Department, in conjunction with the Bureau of Engineering, the City Administrative Officer and the Chief Legislative Analyst, to report in 45 days on the feasibility of creating an Enhanced Infrastructure Financing District (EIFD) along the Los Angeles River to support restoration and maintenance of the River and River adjacent communities.

14-1349

Rent Stabilization Ordinance and Implementation of Ellis Act

Joined Councilmember Koretz in requesting HCID to review the Rent Stabilization Ordinance and how the City regulated the implementation of the Ellis Act. Further requests that the report include recommendations/amendments responding to changes in state law, case law, changes in market conditions, etc.

14-0268-S4

Preserving Affordable Housing Stock/Cap on Demolitions

Joined Councilmember Koretz in requesting HCID, Planning and LADBS to report back on recommendations relative to an annual cap on demolitions of Rent Stabilized units based on the overall percentage of the RSO housing stock; withholding the issuance of demolition permits for RSO units until all permits are fully issued; adapting AB222 concept which calls for density bonus projects to replace pre-existing affordable units on a one-to-one basis.

15-0728

CBIA v. City of San Jose/Inclusionary Housing

Requesting City Attorney and HCID to report on the CBIA v. City of San Jose ruling regarding inclusionary zoning. It further instructs HCID to present policy options and a framework for a potential inclusionary housing ordinance for the City of LA.

15-0762

Site Plan Review Modification

Joined Councilmember Cedillo in instructing the Department of City Planning to prepare and present a report with recommendations to amend the site plan review ordinance, increasing the threshold from 50 residential units and establishing an administrative zoning clearance process for projects below this threshold as a strategy to increase the City's affordable housing production.

15-1003

AB 2502 (Mullin and Chiu) / Inclusionary Housing Requirements / Affordable Housing

That by the adoption of this Resolution, the City of Los Angeles hereby includes in its 2015-2016 State Legislative Program SUPPORT for AB 2502 (Mullin and Chiu), a bill that would authorize the legislative body of any city, county, or city and county to adopt ordinances to establish, as a condition of development, inclusionary housing requirements

15-0002-S157

SB 1267 (Allen) / Expanding Definition to Families with School-Aged Children

That by the adoption of this Resolution, the City of Los Angeles hereby includes in its 2015-2016 State Legislative Program SUPPORT for SB 1267 (Allen), which would, under an Ellis Act eviction, provide a one year notice requirement to families who have children enrolled in primary or secondary school.

15-0002-S190

Impact of Rent Stabilization Ordinance (RSO) Inventory

Joined Councilmember Huizar to request the Planning Department include a report and analysis of the impact to RSO stock as part of land use applications.

16-0767

Relocation Assistance / Rent Stabilization Ordinance / Municipal Code Loophole Closure

Close potential loopholes to protect tenants and ensure relocation assistance.

14-0268-S8