State to LA: rezone for 250K new homes or else

Revisions to city’s plans due by October, billions in funding at stake

(Los Angeles Conservancy, iStock/Illustration by Steven Dilakian for The Real Deal)
(Los Angeles Conservancy, iStock/Illustration by Steven Dilakian for The Real Deal)

Officials of the State of California have told counterparts with the City of Los Angeles to rezone to accommodate 255,000 new homes or risk losing billions in affordable housing grants.

The state Department of Housing and Community Development has rejected the city’s previously submitted long-term plan for development, saying it must rezone for the new housing by mid-October, the Los Angeles Times reported.

If city leaders don’t fix the housing plan and complete the rezoning by the new deadline, they could lose access to billions of dollars in affordable housing grants, the state housing regulator warned in a letter.

The likelihood that L.A. can complete a task that typically takes three years within the next eight months is almost nil, experts told the newspaper.
Without the grant money, the production of new housing for low-income and homeless residents across L.A. would take a massive hit.

Despite its rejection, Gustavo Velasquez, director of the state housing department, lauded the city plan for new housing and low-income apartments, as well as its safeguards against displacing residents. But he said Los Angeles hasn’t done enough to comply with new state laws that aim to foster greater development across California.

The state has approved only seven housing plans for growth submitted by cities in Southern California. Another 190 are now out of compliance, and they face the same funding and rezoning restrictions as Los Angeles.

The rejection for Los Angeles comes after a long tug of war between Gov. Gavin Newsom, state lawmakers and cities across California over housing growth. Newsom and some lawmakers blame local barriers to development on soaring housing costs, crushing rents and rising homelessness.

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New laws allow some affordable housing projects to get built without local zoning approvals, including fourplexes in areas once reserved for single-family homes.

The law that requires plans for additional housing that meet the state’s approval, known as the “housing element,” is 50 years old. It requires local governments to draw up a plan every eight years for zoning that meets housing goals assigned by the state.

New rules have substantially increased the number of new homes cities must allow.

In Southern California alone, local governments must plan for the construction of 1.3 million new homes by 2029 — triple the number required during the previous cycle, the Los Angeles Times reported. And cities now must show that the properties they’re targeting for new development are more likely to have housing built on them.

Los Angeles officials had pushed for more housing near the coast, rather than pushing sprawl out of the city.

[Los Angeles Times] – Dana Bartholomew

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