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L.A. County leaders seek a plan to boost the supply of affordable housing

L.A. County leaders seek a plan to boost the supply of affordable housing
County supervisors want to increase the supply of affordable housing. Above, a project under construction. (Christina House / Los Angeles Times)

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors passed a motion Tuesday asking the county to draft four ordinances that would seek to preserve and increase the number of affordable housing units in unincorporated areas.

One proposed ordinance would require developers to include a small percentage of affordable homes in new projects.

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The proposal also calls for ordinances to help streamline the process for developers who want to build more permanent supportive housing units, and allow multifamily housing development in commercial zones.

Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, who co-wrote the motion with Mark Ridley-Thomas, said these measures would, for instance, make it easier and quicker for developers to convert motels into affordable housing.

The Los Angeles City Council is considering a similar measure.

A Department of Regional Planning report released in January found that the county needs more than 17,000 affordable housing units for lower-income individuals.

The supervisors said the proposal would help speed up development of affordable housing units and preserve those that already exist for low-income families in unincorporated areas.

"We face a daunting housing crisis fueled by unaffordable high rents that put many families just one personal crisis away from finding themselves on the street," Kuehl said in a statement. "These ordinances will strengthen our efforts to stem the homeless crisis as well as help keep people in their homes by expanding affordable housing."

Jenny Delwood, executive vice president of the Liberty Hills Foundation, a social justice advocacy organization, called the motion the first step toward helping expand and preserve affordable housing in the county.

"Thank you so much for putting forward this bold and progressive motion today," Delwood told the supervisors.

A few of the dozen or so other people who came to speak expressed concern over the ordinance that would require some affordable homes in new projects — a practice known as inclusionary zoning.

Stuart Waldman, president of the Valley Industry and Commerce Assn., said it would make it more expensive to build housing and make it harder for families to afford it.

The board's action has "many elements" that would help boost the region's housing supply, Waldman said in a statement. But he urged the supervisors to exercise extreme caution when considering an inclusionary housing element.

Supervisor Kathryn Barger shared similar concerns that an inclusionary zoning policy could make it more difficult for families to afford housing; she ultimately voted to support all directives in the motion except for the inclusionary housing policy.

Follow me on Twitter @melissaetehad

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