Planning director says LA could hit the mayor’s housing goal two years early

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Los Angeles may reach a housing goal set by Mayor Eric Garcetti ahead of schedule, according to the city’s planning director, Vince Bertoni.

In 2014, Garcetti announced plans to spur development of 100,000 new units of housing in the city by 2021. Bertoni told the City Council’s planning and land use management committee Tuesday that the Department of City Planning has approved projects containing 106,000 units since then.

Not all of those developments have been completed yet, and some could still fall through. But Bertoni said that, with three years left to hit the mayor’s target, the Department of Building and Safety has already issued building permits for projects totaling 83,000 units.

Given that it often takes up to a year for developers to receive these permits once their plans have been approved, Bertoni predicted that LA could hit its 100,000-unit target as soon as next year.

“We’re probably ahead of track to achieve that number,” he said Tuesday.

Garcetti framed the goal as a crucial element of the city’s efforts to address a statewide housing affordability crisis. But it’s clear there’s plenty of work left on that front.

Since 2014, rents and real estate prices have continued to climb, and the city’s homeless population has ballooned. A recent report from the California Housing Partnership and the Southern California Association of Nonprofit Housing found that LA needs more than 550,000 new units of affordable housing to satisfy renter demand.

“There’s still a lot more we need to do,” Bertoni acknowledged Tuesday.

In spite of LA’s mini building boom since 2014, the city is still behind in meeting goals for affordable housing production.

According to a report released earlier this year by the California Department of Housing and Community Development, the city has produced less than a quarter of the low- and very low-income units needed to satisfy its 2021 targets.

New incentives for developers who include affordable units in projects near transit may help. Established as a result of Measure JJJ, which LA voters approved in 2016, the incentives went into effect last year.

Since then, developers have proposed more than 1,100 units of affordable housing in projects that take advantage of the incentives, according to a planning department report. Nearly 1,700 additional affordable units have been proposed since passage of JJJ, which requires developers of many major projects to set aside a small percentage of housing for lower-income earners.

Bertoni said continuing to encourage construction of housing for people of all income levels would help address the city’s homelessness crisis.

“At the end of the day, people are homeless because they can’t afford to pay the rent or the mortgage to have a place to live on their own,” he said.

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