It's official: Los Angeles has an updated housing element.
Yesterday, an official with the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) sent a letter to Planning Director Vince Bertoni confirming that the revised "Plan to House L.A." is in full compliance with the State Housing Element Law. Local planners will now be tasked with implementing zone changes to accommodate the construction of 255,000 new homes citywide in the near-term future.
"We are pleased the California Department of Housing and Community Development applauds L.A.’s Housing Element 2021-2029, the boldest housing strategy in the City’s history, and has found the adopted housing element in full compliance with state law," said Vince Bertoni in a statement. "City Planning is committed to correcting historic inequities and furthering fair housing through a transformative rezoning program, which will increase access to higher resourced communities and promote housing stability. We will continue to partner in thoughtful community engagement to move forward the most ambitious rezoning program in the nation – to increase capacity for more than 250,000 additional housing units, while prioritizing equity, affordability, and minimizing displacement."
In February, local officials were caught off guard when HCD unexpectedly rejected the city's draft 2021-2029 housing element after determining the plan did not include sufficient strategies for "affirmatively furthering fair housing," That metric, which originated in Title VIII of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1968, requires jurisdictions that receive federal funding to implement policies to combat discrimination based on characteristics such as race, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, and religion.
The revisions which allowed for L.A.'s plan to achieve state certification supplement updated zoning with new strategies prioritizing projects in high opportunity areas, enabling the redevelopment of public-facility zoned land, expanding community benefits programs, incentivizing the construction of accessory dwelling units, and assistance programs for lower-income homebuyers.
HCD's initial rejection of the L.A. housing element carried potentially grave consequences, jeopardizing the city's ability to pursue state grants. It also imposed an October deadline for implementing the required zone changes - a timeline which even HCD director Gustavo Velasquez admitted may not have been possible due to the scale of Los Angeles.
Luckily for L.A. officials, as well as planners in other Southern California jurisdictions without compliant housing elements, state lawmakers have granted them a reprieve. Legislation expected to pass this week will lift the October deadline, instead giving cities until 2024 to adopt the required zone changes.