For three decades, For three decades, Angelenos have faced higher rates of overcrowded housing than in any other major city in the United States. A new initiative by several members of the Los Angeles City Council aims to provide a small measure of relief.

In a motion introduced on February 9, Los Angeles City Council President Paul Krekorian has proposed the creation of a new density bonus incentive to promote the construction of large family units in new apartment buildings.

"The Los Angeles General Plan prioritizes the need for a mix of housing types across the City, including rental and homeownership opportunities for singles, families, seniors, persons with disabilities, and multi-generational families," reads the motion, which has been referred to the Council's Planning and Land Use Management Committee for consideration. "Fully a third of the households in the City of Los Angeles are comprised of four or more people, yet only 14% of the renter-occupied housing stock encompasses three- or four-bedroom units. Newly constructed rental units tend to be much smaller, and a majority are studios or one-bedroom units. The lack of three- and four-bedroom rental units makes it difficult for larger households to find appropriate and affordable rental housing."

The motion calls for the Planning Department to craft a density bonus program which would:

  1. Exempt the square footage of 3rd, 4th, and 5th bedrooms, as well as 3rd and 4th restrooms, from floor area calculations of large family units;
  2. Allow for an additional story of height beyond existing zoning restrictions and bonuses for developments consisting primarily of large family units; and
  3. Require a 99-year covenant ensuring that the units will maintain the same unit mix and be made available to households earning no more than 120 percent of the area median income level.

The motion also clarifies that the large family unit bonus would be additive to existing incentives through the density bonus and Transit Oriented Communities guidelines.

In addition to providing larger homes for the roughly 17 percent of Los Angeles renter households living in overcrowded apartments, Krekorian argues that the project would help the city adapt to changes brought about by the global pandemic, including a shift to remote work. Likewise, larger residential units could more easily accommodate multi-generational households.

The motion comes at a time when the City of Los Angeles is under pressure to rezone and implement new programs to accommodate up to 255,000 new homes in the coming years. As part of the effort, Planning officials are rolling out a citywide adaptive reuse ordinance, expanding upon a program which allowed for the conversion of dozens of aging Downtown office buildings into housing in recent decades.

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