Measure JJJ triggers new incentives to encourage affordable housing near transit

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Los Angeles voters overwhelmingly approved a November ballot measure meant to spur development of affordable housing and ensure that builders rely on local labor. Now, the city’s planning department has released guidelines for a key part of that initiative.

Measure JJJ, which passed with nearly 64 percent of the vote, sets affordable housing mandates and hiring restrictions favoring local laborers on residential projects requiring a zoning change or an amendment to the city’s General Plan. It also creates incentives for developers building near transit stops.

New guidelines from the planning department make clear just how those incentives will work.

Based on how close a site is to a transit stop—and what type of stop—different amounts of affordable housing will be required to trigger the incentives. Projects within 750 feet of a Metro rail station will need the most affordable units to qualify for incentives, while projects around a half-mile from Metrolink stops or major bus stops will require the least.

The number of affordable units developers must build depends on just how affordable they choose to make them. For instance, developments within 750 feet of a Metro stop will need to make either 11 percent of units available to tenants making under 30 percent of median income, 15 percent to those making less than 50 percent, or 27 percent to those making less than 80 percent.

The incentives range from reduced parking requirements to greater allowable height to an increased number of total units allowed in the project. The incentives should allow developers to increase profits, making up for income lost by renting some units at lower prices.

Map of transit
The planning memo includes a handy map showing sites near transit stops around LA
Department of City Planning

Los Angeles already has an incentive program in place to promote construction of affordable housing, but a recent report from the City Controller’s office found that it’s been far from effective. From 2008, when the program was launched, to 2014, just 329 units were built by developers using the incentives.

Controller Ron Galperin noted that program likely doesn’t offer developers enough financial benefit to bother with the incentives. It remains to be seen whether that will change under the new incentive program.

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