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Mayor Pledges $100Million More for Affordable Housing

Times Staff Writer

Acknowledging that Los Angeles still is in the midst of a housing crisis, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced Thursday that he intends to put another $100 million into the city’s affordable housing trust fund.

This marks the second year in a row that Villaraigosa has committed that amount to the fund. About $50 million will be used to spur construction of housing within the means of low- and middle-income earners and the other $50 million to build housing and support services for the homeless.

The mayor also did something that he hasn’t done much of to date: stumping for the city’s $1-billion affordable housing bond measure on the Nov. 7 ballot.

Villaraigosa made his remarks at an event billed as the mayoral housing summit at UCLA’s Anderson School of Management. In keeping with one of the event’s themes -- that lack of housing forces people to drive farther to their jobs -- Villaraigosa was several minutes late after getting stuck in Westside traffic.

“For employers, the high cost of housing is making it more and more difficult to attract and retain workers with the right skills,” Villaraigosa said. “And in every economic quarter we see businesses tempted to take their headquarters and their payrolls elsewhere.”

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The affordable housing trust fund uses local funds, which can attract matching grants from the state and federal governments. The amounts are combined and used to help finance housing projects by both nonprofit and for-profit developers, who must in turn offer the units at lower prices.

City officials say the $100 million that Villaraigosa budgeted for the fund last year will provide about 1,000 units for low- and middle-income earners who qualify for such housing. However, city officials believe the city needs to build 50,000 units to keep up with demand.

Villaraigosa proposed the bond measure last year but has not campaigned for it much. He said that will change.

“I didn’t get elected to take up space,” Villaraigosa said. “We’re engaged in this effort to win. I can tell you that no matter what happens, the city is committed to funding the trust fund.”

The bond measure enjoys broad support from both housing activists and developers and, if approved by two-thirds of voters, could help pay for up to 20,000 units of affordable housing, the mayor said.

Most of the talk at the summit was about affordable housing. But Villaraigosa also suggested in his speech that more market-price housing was needed to increase the city’s supply and urged officials to consider nontraditional sites.

He did not elaborate. Portland, Ore., and other cities, however, have in recent years changed the zoning in areas that were once exclusively commercial or industrial to allow for residential development. In Los Angeles, such talk has often prompted concerns of more density and traffic.

“The bond is a major piece of the puzzle, but it is not the entire solution,” said Holly Schroeder, chief executive of the Building Industry Assn.'s Greater Los Angeles chapter.

“One of the myths of density is that it will bring more people here -- but they’re already here, and we’re not planning or designing our community for that kind of growth,” Schroeder said. “And it’s a lot harder to do later than if we planned ahead.”

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steve.hymon@latimes.com


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