Developers no longer need City Council approval letter to build affordable housing

Opponents of the rule said it was way for elected officials to block homeless or affordable housing in their district

California Governor Jerry Brown and Los Angeles City Hall (Credit: Neon Tommy via Flickr)
California Governor Jerry Brown and Los Angeles City Hall (Credit: Neon Tommy via Flickr)

The need for affordable housing and housing for the homeless in Los Angeles is pressing. Now, building those properties just got a little easier and less costly.

The city has scrapped a rule that allowed Council members to effectively veto such projects in their districts, according to the Los Angeles Times. The change complies with a new state law that bans that kind of veto power, and eases the way for developers to build more affordable projects with city funding.

The L.A. rule required a developer who wanted city funding an affordable housing or homeless housing project to first obtain a “letter of acknowledgement.” That letter could only come from the local city council member, giving that elected official complete power over whether the developer received the necessary funding. In July, the Alliance for Californians for Community Empowerment sued the city, seeking to overturn the rule.

Opponents of the rule say it was a way for Council members to block homeless or affordable developments in their districts. Council members said it was a necessary check that allowed them to provide community input for projects.

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Community opposition to temporary homeless shelters, which is different than affordable or transitional housing, has been fierce around the city. Groups opposing such a shelter in Koreatown appeared to be the driving force behind Council President Herb Wesson’s decision to ask city staff to find alternative sites for the shelter. Wesson represents that district.

The new law signed by Gov. Jerry Brown would punish L.A. if it maintained the veto power, withholding state money or tax credits for affordable housing projects.

Still, the Council doesn’t want to let go of its power so easily. It directed the city Housing Authority to find other ways that Council members and the community could have a say in similar projects. [LAT] — Dennis Lynch