August 30, 1989 - From the August, 1989 issue

Mayor's Office Housing Initiatives

Beth Bergman and Kenneth Bernstein, both coordinating housing policy for the Mayor, provide an overview of the housing initiatives being approved by the City Council. Linkage fees, affordable housing considerations, innovating housing fundare some of the Mayor's Blue Ribbon Committee for Affordable Housing initiatives that are being approved. Furthermore, Bergman and Bernstein point to other housing-related actions being conducted by Mayor Tom Bradley.

With the unanimous approval of the City Council on May 23, Los Angeles is poised to implement one of the most comprehensive housing strategies in the nation.

The Council approved 15 of the 16 housing initiatives before it, most of which were recommendations of the December, 1988 report by the Mayor's Blue Ribbon Committee for Affordable Housing.

The Council voted unanimously to charge an interim fee on new commercial development to mitigate the probable negative impact of such development on the affordable housing market. An inter­agency task force is now studying whether the program should be applied citywide, or over a smaller area. Although so-called "linkage" programs have historically met with varying degrees of approval from the private development sector, several Los Angeles private sector representatives spoke favorably of the program before the City Council vote.

The issuance of a linkage fee is ultimately contingent on satisfying the Supreme Court's requirements in Nollan v. California Coastal Commission. Based on Nollan, a linkage program is constitutional only if a “nexus” or “rational relationship” exists between new commercial development and the need for affordable housing. The Community Development Department (CDD) has therefore issued a request for qualifications (RFQ) for an independent study to determine that nexus.

If the nexus study is not completed by October 1,1989, all non-residential development receiving building permits thereafter may be subject to a $2.50 to $7.50 fee per square foot, until the nexus study justifies a different fee level.

If the study determines that a nexus exists, Los Angeles will join other major cities, including Boston, San Francisco. and Sacramento, in enacting a linkage program tying commercial construction to affordable housing development. Other measures are now being implemented by city agencies:

  • A ten-point action plan by the Community Development Department, CDD, to respond to the loss of federal rent subsidies on 22,000 units citywide (the plan includes negotiating with project developers, encouraging acquisitions of threatened properties by non-profits, and placing expired projects under the Rent Stabilization Ordinance).
  • Strengthening the “15% ordinance” to mandate that residential developers set aside 15% of their units for low-income residents, or pay an in-lieu fee.
  • Creating a $2 million “innovative housing fund” to provide technical assistance, capacity building and financing for non-profit housing developers.
  • Developing options to control the demolition of affordable housing (this process has already begun with the devel­opment of a stricter demolition moratorium on SRO housing).
  • Giving preference to lenders that support city housing programs.
  • And incorporating affordable housing considerations into environmental impact reviews.

            The Mayor's office is also issuing a directive requiring city departments to assess the impact of all future policy actions on affordable housing, so as to assure that city programs do not indirectly have a negative effect on the affordable housing market.

The city's efforts to rehabilitate seismically unsafe brick buildings, the structures which provide a majority of the city's low-income housing, have been hampered by the narrow defeat in April of a $100 million bond measure, Proposition 3. We intend to place the measure on the ballot again in June, 1990. In the meantime, CDD is initiating programs to rehabilitate seismically unsafe housing by targeting rehabilitation efforts to multi-family units, restructuring loan programs, and expediting the transfer of Proposition 77 funds from the state.

The Mayor is also meeting with corporate leaders in order to establish the Los Angeles Housing Partnership, an energetic, entrepreneurial non-profit corporation to be headed by a major corporate figure. The Partnership, similar to successful operations in other cities, will strengthen alliances between the city, non­profit developers, and the corporate community. It will supply loans, operating subsidies, and equity sources for community-based non-profit developers.


Although the City Council's support fora new affordable housing strategy is a significant, critical step, the Council has yet to approve the measure most important to sound housing policymaking: the Housing Commission.

The Housing Commission is designed to provide leadership amidst fragmentation. Housing policy in the City today is made by a bewildering array of agencies, with no overall plan or coordination. Besides the Community Development Department, the CRA, the Housing Authority, and the Planning Department, seven other city offices help shape the city's housing policy.

The Council is itself establishing a Redevelopment and Housing Committee, a welcome step that will enhance its capabilities in the housing field. The Housing Commission will not be a competitor to the Council, but a full partner, supplying technical back-up and strategic thinking that will assist the Council committee.

The Commission will act in an advisory capacity, and will have no direct responsibility for implementing housing programs. The Commission will perform functions that currently go unperformed. It will, for example, annually assess the city's housing trends and future housing needs. It will evaluate housing agencies' budget proposals to assure that they are consistent with the City's overall housing policy.

It will also closely monitor all proposed policies for potential adverse impacts on affordable housing, a task which a Council committee would not have sufficient time to perform.

Finally, the Commission will conduct its activities in public, holding open hearings at every phase. This will allow citizen input in determining housing needs, reviewing housing budgets, evaluating housing agencies' performance, and making recommendations.

With a vibrant, creative Housing Commission in place to complement the new Council committee, Los Angeles will have a government apparatus ready to face the housing challenges of the 1990's.


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