LA wants to keep better track of its affordable housing

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The Los Angeles City Council passed a series of motions Wednesday aimed at protecting tenants and preserving the city’s precarious stock of affordable housing.

Councilmember Jose Huizar, who introduced the measures, pointed to rising rents in his district as evidence of a citywide housing crisis. “We have to do more than just increase the supply,” he told the council.

The motions direct city staff to create new systems to monitor affordable housing citywide and inform tenants about their rights as renters. Here are a few of the proposed reforms:

  • Building a public database that tracks both the creation and loss of affordable housing units throughout the city
  • Councilmembers will receive immediate notification when landlords mass-evict tenants under California’s Ellis Act
  • Requiring landlords to notify tenants of their eviction rights under the city’s Rent Stabilization Ordinance

The council also asked the city’s Housing and Community Investment Department to come up with a plan for how to extend affordable housing covenants. (These are covenants that property owners sign with the city in exchange for being allowed to rezone land or to build bigger than what zoning codes allow, for example. The covenants obligate landowners to designate a certain number of units for low to moderate-income households, usually for up to 55 years.)

HCID reports that from 2009 to 2015, 2,831 units have been set aside as affordable under such covenants. Once affordable restrictions on those units expire, they can be offered at market rate prices.

Some older covenants are set to expire within the next five years, and one of Huizar’s motions suggests that the city could negotiate extensions with landlords to ensure they remain on the rental market at affordable prices.

Huizar has also called for a new ordinance protecting tenants from harassment tactics perpetrated by landlords eager to vacate rent-controlled units. The council will take up that issue during its Friday meeting.

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