Council Places Housing Bond on Ballot

Times Staff Writer

In a move widely supported by housing advocates and the business community, the Los Angeles City Council unanimously voted Wednesday to place a $1-billion affordable-housing bond measure on the Nov. 7 ballot.

The measure, if approved by two-thirds of city voters, would provide $750 million in grants and loans for developers to build affordable rental units and an additional $250 million for a loan program to help some workers in the city buy their first homes.

Property owners in Los Angeles would see their annual real estate taxes increase by an average of $14.66 for every $100,000 of assessed value for a duration of 20 years. For example, the owner of a home assessed at $300,000 would probably see an increase of $44 annually.

"This is something that is on the mind of Angelenos, and our research shows that it should be able to get two-thirds of the vote with a vigorous campaign," Council President Eric Garcetti said.

The bond measure would be essentially a massive expansion of the city's affordable-housing trust fund program, which has struggled for funding since its creation by then-Mayor James K. Hahn. This year's city budget set aside $100 million for the fund -- the largest amount in a single fiscal year.

The bond issue mostly targets families that earn less than the area median income of $69,300, a segment of the market often unattractive to developers.

"The market doesn't pay for affordable units; the market creates luxury units," said Lisa Payne, executive director of the Southern California Assn. of Nonprofit Housing. "This fills the gap between what someone can afford to pay in rent and what developers have to charge to pay for their loans" to build projects.

The idea for a housing bond measure has been kicking around City Hall for more than a year. Hahn had proposed a $500-million measure during his reelection campaign last year, and Garcetti has been pushing the idea for more than a year.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa put his stamp on it when he surprised his staff by upping the amount, from $500 million to $1 billion, on the night before he announced his support for a housing measure last year.

Earlier this summer, Villaraigosa expressed concern that the affordable-housing bond could suffer because of competition from the state infrastructure bonds that he supports. On Wednesday, his staff said he would stump for the bond.

"The mayor is pleased that the council has made a historic commitment to facing the housing crisis in the city," said Elizabeth Kivowitz, a Villaraigosa press secretary. "He intends to work hard in every part of the city to gain support for the bond."

Securing passage probably will require deft campaign skills.

The November ballot is already crowded with four state public-works bond measures, including a $2.85-billion proposal that would include housing across the state.

Garcetti said a political committee, Homes for Los Angeles Families, has been created for the campaign and has raised more than $600,000.

He said backers of the measure expect to raise and spend $3 million.

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