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Home / environmental reviews

State rejects LA housing plan, calls for swifter, more ambitious rezoning

State housing regulators rejected Los Angeles’ blueprint for increased development over the next eight years, telling the city it must rezone by mid-October to accommodate 255,000 new homes, instead of over the next three years, or risk losing access to affordable housing grants, it was reported Thursday.

The Los Angeles City Council unanimously approved the Housing Element Update 2021-29 on Nov. 24 as a guide that lays the groundwork for nearly 500,000 new housing units by 2029. The update revises the plan adopted in 2013.

The Department of Housing and Community Development said the city needs to comply with stricter state laws that are aimed at more development across California, the Los Angeles Times reported. Among the state’s concerns, according to The Times, is that the city hasn’t demonstrated a sufficient strategy to invest in parks and economic development in its poorer neighborhoods.

City planners said the goal of the update, titled “The Plan To House LA,” is to provide an ample supply of housing that creates more equitable and affordable options for Angelenos; to preserve and enhance quality of housing and provide greater stability for households of all income levels; to create healthy, sustainable and resilient communities that improve the lives of all Los Angeles residents; to foster racially and socially inclusive neighborhoods; and to commit to preventing and ending homelessness.

Los Angeles needs to produce about 57,000 units per year to keep up with housing demand, but since 2014, it has been producing only about 16,700 units per year, according to the Regional Housing Needs Assessment, a process required by the state that aims to ensure cities and counties plan for enough housing in their Housing Element.

Additionally, it needs about 23,000 new affordable units per year, but only about 1,650 affordable units have been produced per year since 2014, according to city planners.

The regional assessment determined the city must accommodate at least 456,643 new units by 2029, with at least 184,721 of them being affordable for lower-income households.

The plan was aimed at clearing the way for construction of 250,000 housing units within three years. The plan also includes “anti-displacement strategy studies, eviction defense programs, inclusionary zoning studies” and a focus on rezoning “higher opportunity areas” near jobs and transit, allowing increased densities in areas previously limited to single-family-only uses.

Under the state’s ruling, the city must rezone for 255,000 new homes by mid-October, instead of over the next three years. If the city’s plan doesn’t get approval from the state, it will not be eligible for the state’s affordable housing programs, which in January gave $125 million to support low-income housing developments in Los Angeles, The Times reported.

Officials with the city and state told The Times that doing the rezoning effort by mid-October was likely not possible given lengthy environmental reviews and the City Council’s approval process.

“Los Angeles is leading the movement to confront the housing crisis in California. Our housing element is the most ambitious and aggressive in the state, as part of a new regulatory process with unprecedented housing goals, and the mayor is proud of the work city staff have done to bring it to this point. This is just another step in the process, and the mayor is confident our plan will be approved very shortly, and that we will not miss out on any state funding,” Garcetti’s communications director Alex Comisar said.

“Rezoning the entire city in one year is infeasible, and we don’t believe that penalty was meant to apply to jurisdictions pursuing compliance in good faith. We will work collaboratively with the governor and the legislature toward an outcome that allows for successful implementation.”

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