The high cost of construction has proven to be an obstacle to the delivery of permanent supportive housing in Southern California.  Now, the City of Los Angeles may take a novel approach to its development in Warner Center.


According to a motion introduced last week by City Councilmember Bob Blumenfield, an 18-unit apartment building now under construction at 6800 Variel Street was submitted, but not selected, for the Proposition HHH Housing Challenge request for proposals earlier this year.  Respondents to the request for proposals were expected to propose supportive housing projects that could be delivered more quickly and at a lower cost than the average $550,000 per unit price tag that Measure HHH developments have averaged to date

California Home Builders, the developer of the apartment complex, estimated that the building could have housed 36 or more persons before the end of 2019.

"The Challenge sought to fund 'out of the box' projects that can be financed quickly with flexible funding sources and innovative projects that may not qualify for conventional financing," writes Blumenfield.  "However, this Project did not meet the administrative threshold under the Challenge because [its] requirements were still too 'within the box' of traditionally financed construction projects.  The purchase of entitled projects under construction would be a new and innovative approach to creating affordable and supportive housing units quickly.  Without a flexible funding source, this building will quickly become market rate luxury units."

The building, which is currently known as The 6800, is on pace for completion before year's end.  A leasing website advertises a mix of two- and three-bedroom apartments commanding monthly rents between $2,909 and $4,393 per month.

Blumenfield's motion, if adopted by the City Council, would direct the Housing and Community Investment Department and other city entities to report on options available to purchase the property at 6800 Variel for use as affordable and permanent supportive housing, including the Homeless Emergency Aid Program, the Homeless Housing Assistance and Prevention Program, Naturally Occurring Affordable Housing Loan Program and Measure HHH.

"It is critical that these types of housing projects be distributed throughout the City," writes Blumenfield.  "There are areas of the City that may require different methods of delivering projects since the traditional methods have not yielded an equitable distribution.  This Project would help the City make progress towards its goal of siting projects in a district with few Proposition HHH units."

The concentration of supportive housing has become an issue of contention within the City Council, with many projects located in South Los Angeles and the Eastside, but relatively few in more affluent quarters of the City.

According to the Everyone In supportive housing tracker, Blumenfield's 3rd District - which covers much of the West San Fernando Valley - has just 13 supportive units approved as of October 2019 - the second lowest figure among the 15 City Council districts.

Blumenfield's motion has been referred to the City Council's Homelessness and Poverty Committee for consideration.