Table of Contents
Los Angeles is at the epicenter of America’s housing crisis. The impacts of skyrocketing rents, housing market speculation, minimal renter protections, and gentrification have hit residents of CD1 particularly hard. Incumbent councilmember Gil Cedillo has held immense power as chair of the City’s Housing Committee for the past 9 years, but instead of strengthening renters’ protections and building sufficient stock of affordable housing, he’s sided with market-rate and luxury developers time and time again—accepting more than $550,000 from the real estate industry during his time in office. Notably, Councilmember Cedillo rejected a recommendation from the City Planning Commission in 2019 to set aside 5% of a proposed development for very-low-income housing, instead approving all 725 market-rate units in Chinatown with zero units of affordable housing.
The pandemic has only deepened and broadened the impact of the housing crisis, and many of our residents who have not already lost their housing are in danger of doing so in the coming months. The population changes in CD1 and the data gathered through the census and Emergency Rental Assistance Program have only confirmed what organizers have been ringing the alarm on for decades: our communities continue to be displaced and pushed out.
LA’s housing crisis is complex and deep-rooted. Addressing it will require undoing the harm of racial and economic discrimination, and building meaningful safety nets to keep housing insecure Angelenos housed. The origins and initial framework of our current housing systems stretch back to the displacement of indigenous peoples, systemic banishment of communities of color, redlining, anti-poor NIMBY housing policy, and the stranglehold that developers who profit off the city have over our elected leaders. Our problems include a chronic lack of affordable housing and a lack of political will to invest in long-term solutions like social housing and strong renter protections.
The last nine years have led to a district where migrants, elders, low income people, and BIPOC have not gotten the support they need to stay housed. The leadership of District 1 has lacked the urgency to stop the displacement of low-income people, migrants, families, and our elders. Many of our people don’t have four more years to wait for things to change while life-saving policies languish in committee, never get on the agenda, or are never proposed at all.
In order to address our housing crisis, LA must enact a comprehensive offensive and defensive strategy with long-term housing transformation at the core.
Tenant and Renter Protections
Housing Production & Development
PART ONE: TENANT AND RENTER PROTECTIONS
Legal and illegal evictions fuel homelessness. Strengthening tenant protections and supporting renters to stay housed are key to stabilizing our neighborhoods and stemming the worsening homelessness crisis.
What will we do on the City Council to support Angelenos? We will protect renters by:
I. ESTABLISHING UNIVERSAL JUST CAUSE EVICTION PROTECTIONS
In Los Angeles, people who live in “rent-stabilized housing” (multi-family units built before October 1, 1978, “RSO”) have access to some renter protections that people who live in newer or recently remodeled developments do not. One such eviction protection is “Just Cause.”
► “Just Cause” means that landlords have to demonstrate a reason to evict someone and are not able to evict renters arbitrarily. For example, requiring evictions to have “Just Cause” would prevent landlords from evicting a tenant simply to sell the rental property, and would require landlords to pay for relocation assistance if they legally evict tenants who are not at fault (e.g., if the landlord wants to demolish the unit or clear it for a family member). It would also prohibit landlords from evicting tenants for retaliatory reasons.
Universal Just Cause eviction policy would expand those eviction protections to ALL residential units across LA city.
II. CODIFYING RIGHT TO COUNSEL FOR ALL TENANTS DURING EVICTION COURT PROCEEDINGS
Many tenants are currently facing eviction due to the obstacles that have arisen due to the pandemic and gentrification, but they receive no legal support to navigate that difficult process. While the overwhelming majority of tenants lack legal representation in eviction cases, over 90% of landlords filing for eviction are represented by an attorney. This dynamic stacks the odds against tenants, particularly low-income tenants who lack the financial resources to access legal support. A report on universal access to legal services in New York City found that 84% of households represented in court by lawyers were able to remain in their homes.
► Ensuring that all tenants have legal representation when faced with eviction is an issue of both economic and racial justice. Black and Latinx families are more likely to be severely rent burdened, meaning that they spend more than 50% of their income on housing, and Black renters face eviction rates at far higher rates than white renters.
► Codifying the right to counsel will help ensure that tenants have fair representation if faced with eviction and will deter landlords from taking advantage of tenants who may not know their rights.
► A cost-benefit study conducted by Stout found that, for every $1 invested in right to counsel, LA City would save $3.48. By preventing evictions and displacement, LA can reduce the in-flow into homelessness and invest in one of the cheapest housing solutions of them all: helping tenants stay housed where they already live.
► Additionally, I support the United to House LA ballot initiative and if it gets on the ballot and passes, my office would push for using part of the funds generated annually to implement Right to Counsel.
III. ADDRESSING TENANT HARASSMENT AND STRENGTHENING INSPECTIONS AND ENFORCEMENT
The Tenant Anti-Harassment Ordinance, which went into effect August 6, 2021, prohibits tenant harassment of many forms, including: (1) Refusing to do required repairs; (2) Attempting to coerce a tenant to move-out; (3) Threatening or serving an eviction notice based on false reasons; and (4) Interfering with the organizing activities of tenant associations and unions. For this tool to be accessible and maximize the impact for renters, the city of LA must require, rather than suggest, attorney fees be covered when the tenant prevails in litigation. Doing so will remove barriers to obtaining attorneys who otherwise may be hesitant to take on costly and time-consuming cases.
► While the ordinance is an important first step, LA Housing Department (LAHD) does not currently have the resources or capacity they need to fairly and comprehensively enforce these and other tenant protections. My council office would prioritize giving LAHD the resources they need to protect tenants, and would ensure that a dedicated staff member accompanies LAHD staff on inspections. This is a practice of Council District 4 which has been greatly successful at ensuring harassment and habitability issues are recorded by the city and addressed.
► Supporting tenant organizing, renter’s rights workshops, and tenancy law literacy is a hugely important piece of prevention for harassment. My office would support the on-the-ground work of housing organizers and leaders in the community.
► Finally, housing and environmental justice have important intersections. Decarbonizing municipal buildings to make the city’s building stock carbon neutral will be an important aspect of tackling the climate emergency over the next 30 years. However, the initiative could hurt renters if landlords pass on the costs of decarbonization to tenants. Considering that 67% of the rental housing stock in Los Angeles is owned by corporate investment vehicles, the owners should absorb the decarbonization costs.
IV. SUPPORTING COMMUNITY LAND TRUSTS AND COMMUNITY-BASED ORGANIZATIONS TO BUY PROPERTIES
by Implementing a Tenant/Community Opportunity to Purchase Act and Helping Them Leverage State Dollars Coming Down the Pipeline Over the Next Few Years
Community land trusts (CLTs) are member-led, community-based organizations that are mission driven to create permanently affordable housing in their neighborhoods. CLTs have the potential to fight the displacement of residents who face the highest barriers to accessing permanently affordable housing in the speculative and racist housing market.
► My office would direct the City Administrative Officer to identify available funding and potential resources for existing community land trusts to acquire and rehabilitate housing in CD1.
► My office would introduce a Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act / Community Opportunity to Purchase Act, which would require owners of rental-occupied units to offer tenants the right-of-first-refusal when the owner decides to sell the building. TOPA/COPA programs are a way for tenants and communities to resist displacement and partake in ownership of land and housing, which can increase community stability and help prevent homelessness. A TOPA/COPA program could also give tenants the option to assign their rights to a third-party, such as a nonprofit developer that agrees to preserve tenant affordability.
V. PROTECTING ALL EXISTING AFFORDABLE HOUSING IN LOS ANGELES
We are in a housing emergency and must prioritize fighting for the affordable housing covenants that we have. According to the Housing Needs Assessment of the Housing Element Update, the city currently has 9,412 housing units at risk of losing their affordability use restrictions between October 1, 2021 and September, 30, 2031. Allowing those affordable units to expire will only fuel displacement and exacerbate gentrification.
► Between 1997 and 2020, LA County lost 6,156 covenanted affordable units. While there is not an established process to renew these affordability covenants, my office would work with tenants and housing organizations to leverage state funding and facilitate covenant recertification with the owners and developers of complexes with expiring affordability covenants.
► In cases where there is every good argument to extend an affordable housing covenant and/or good offers for tenant opportunities to purchase have been rejected, my office would support utilizing eminent domain to compensate the owner and convert the property into tenant controlled housing. My office would partner with the tenants of the building to ensure that the motion is supported through the Housing Committee and has a strong advocate to make it through the Budget and Finance committee.
PART TWO: HOUSING PRODUCTION & DEVELOPMENT
If I am elected to represent District 1 on City Council, my office’s top priorities for creating deeply affordable housing will be:
I. REDIRECTING CITY/STATE ASSETS AND FUNDS INTO DEEPLY AFFORDABLE HOUSING & SOCIAL HOUSING
To me, deeply affordable housing means that if you work in the neighborhood, you should be able to afford to live there. The median income in CD1 is around $32,000, but in neighborhoods like Chinatown, MacArthur Park, or Pico Union, it is way below that. My office would prioritize housing rents at a rate that people who live in these neighborhoods can afford.
► Council offices should be doing everything possible to expand opportunities for tenant-controlled housing, subsidized housing, and permanently affordable housing. I plan to compile a database of all hotel, motel, and major vacant commercial properties in my district that we can buy with Project Home Key, an innovative partnership between Los Angeles County and the State of California to purchase and rehabilitate hotels and motels to convert them into permanent, long-term housing for people experiencing homelessness.
► My office would utilize the $300 million outlined in the AB 140 Housing Budget Trailer Bill to extend caps for affordable housing and $500 million for community land trusts and nonprofits to buy foreclosed upon properties through the Foreclosure Intervention Housing Program.
II. MAKE USE OF PUBLIC-OWNED LAND TO EXPAND HOUSING AVAILABILITY AND AFFORDABILITY
Despite passing a motion in 2015 to identify city-owned properties that could be potential sites for affordable housing, incumbent Gil Cedillo has not followed through on developing and implementing a city-wide strategy to convert these properties into affordable housing at the scale Los Angeles desperately needs. Some steps our office would take include:
► Within my first 100 days in office, I would direct the CAO to report on all publicly-owned land and require detailed departmental information about why a property would not be suitable if there is a recommendation against using it. This would include opportunities to leverage publicly-owned land that is co-owned by the city and other public agencies. The city could and should be partnering more with LAUSD, the LA Community College District, LA County, and Metro to increase the number of suitable sites.
► Identify and track transit opportunities in order to build affordable housing near transit hubs. An increase in transit stations, hubs, and stops helps Angelenos get out of their cars and liberates space for parks, community gathering places, and trees.
III. IMPROVING TRANSPARENCY AND ACCOUNTABILITY AROUND URBAN PLANNING AND DEVELOPMENT
Most development in the district goes through a process with the council office. Offices have particular ability to intervene in discretionary development (municipal), buildings on public land, transit-adjacent developments, and when opportunities to open the zoning code arise. Many council offices have either done very little with this power or actively driven gentrification, as has CD1. To facilitate effective conversations with neighborhoods, my office will have transparent standards for our planning team regarding council support or opposition to development. My office would make our standards and processes easily accessible to all constituents.
► Build where building makes sense. Our hillside communities have dangerous and unmaintained roads. In communities like Mt Washington there has been rampant development with no guardrails for infrastructure, road accessibility, or fire safety. My office would listen and engage with the community to ensure that the neighborhood’s needs are met and that we aren’t building where it is unsafe and doesn’t make sense.
► Transparent standards for approving or denying projects — my council office would have an accessible housing policy platform and engage honestly and directly with community groups about our housing priorities.
► Co-governing agenda for housing goals – In all of my work, I am committed to co-governing. Housing advocates, tenant organizations, and legal aid groups not only know what we need to get out of our housing crises, they are also most connected to what is happening on the ground. Their role will be crucial since policy must be built from the ground up to be effective.
IV. RAPIDLY BRING RESOURCES AND HOUSING TO PEOPLE EXPERIENCING HOMELESSNESS
In 2018, “sweeping” encampments cost Los Angeles over 35 million dollars just to pay for the Sanitation workers and police officers who oversee “clean ups,” and our unhoused population has only grown since then. These “sweeps” are cruel to unhoused Angelenos and do nothing but exacerbate the problem the city is claiming to address.
► Whether through rapid re-housing, increased utilization of housing vouchers, or rental subsidies, the best and most cost-effective way to relieve city streets of encampments is to permanently house people. More shelter beds and interim housing cannot end homelessness without significant investments in permanent housing and appropriate supportive services.
► My office would seek to make permanent supportive housing construction by-right and meet with supportive housing developers to identify how we can get rid of the red tape and barriers that slow down desperately needed supportive housing construction.
► We would also collaborate with service providers on new construction to facilitate unhoused folks’ transition into their new living arrangements. For example: for those who prefer it, communal styles of housing with shared facilities such as kitchens or living areas have been shown to help counter feelings of isolation and lack of community.
V. LAY THE GROUNDWORK FOR PUBLICLY PRODUCED DECOMODIFIED HOUSING AT SCALE, WORKING IN COALITION WITH HOUSING JUSTICE ADVOCATES
Even with an increase in pre-existing supply, we would still be short of the housing required to meet the projections of homelessness in the years to come. Without the repeal of Costa Hawkins, our city lacks some of the strongest tools to stop rents from continuing to rise and fight the leading cause of displacement and homelessness. An impactful and sustainable response to our housing crisis is to massively expand our stock of decommodified housing: housing that is taken off the speculative market so it can’t be sold for profit. My office would work tirelessly to make LA a leader in decommodified and/or social housing, using the tools currently available to us including:
► As mentioned in previous sections, my office would work to identify pathways to acquire land, such as CLTs, utilizing publicly owned land and eminent domain.
► Build relationships and knowledge sharing with existing social housing sites of various models. My office would work closely with the CLTs in LA that are already up and running, making sure they are supported, have the capacity to grow and thrive, and are working closely with the city and each other.
► Set up community-driven social housing commissions. We will build a commission that includes housing justice organizations, tenant organizations, impacted renters, legal support organizations, policy advocates, residents, and advocates who have experience developing social housing. This commission would meet regularly to work with City Council on policy, education, and developing the tools to expand social housing, including exploring the development of publicly-owned construction capacity.
► Affordable Housing Covenant – These are agreements between the developer or owner and the government to provide financial incentives to build affordable housing. The Covenant obligates an owner to designate a specified number and type of dwelling units for occupancy by extremely low, very low, low, or moderate income households, usually for a term of 55 years. The Covenant runs with the land and is binding on all current and future owners of the site. Affordable housing covenants can expire, often leaving low-income tenants with no other housing options.
► The Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) Program — “The most important resource for creating affordable housing in the United States today. Created by the Tax Reform Act of 1986, the LIHTC program gives State and local LIHTC-allocating agencies the equivalent of approximately $8 billion in annual budget authority to issue tax credits for the acquisition, rehabilitation, or new construction of rental housing targeted to lower-income households. An average of almost 1,400 projects and 106,400 units were placed in service annually between 1995 to 2018.” (HUD)
– Quote from our policy roundtable: “This is the mechanism through which 80-90% of “affordable housing” is developed. It applies to the developer, and the tenant is the beneficiary in the sense that their rent is capped at a certain level (i.e. no more than 30% of monthly income on rent). The program is administered by the state.“
► Ministerial (or “By Right”) Projects — These are LA City projects that are in compliance with whatever the zoning rules are, meaning they are mostly rubber stamp projects. If a developer is complying with all the rules for a specific zoning, which can get very detailed, then they have a right to build there and there’s not much a City Council office can do.
► Discretionary Projects — These are LA City projects that go above and beyond what is allowed by the zoning rules for a specific parcel. City Council offices have discretion on these projects because developers need to negotiate and offer the City things in lieu of following the precise guidelines.
► Community Land Trusts — “Community land trusts are nonprofit, community-based organizations designed to ensure community stewardship of land. Community land trusts can be used for many types of development (including commercial and retail), but are primarily used to ensure long-term housing affordability. To do so, the trust acquires land and maintains ownership of it permanently. With prospective homeowners, it enters into a long-term, renewable lease instead of a traditional sale. When the homeowner sells, the family earns only a portion of the increased property value. The remainder is kept by the trust, preserving the affordability for future low- to moderate-income families. The length of the lease (most frequently, 99 years) and the percentage earned by the homeowner vary. Ultimately, by separating the ownership of land and housing, this innovative approach prevents market factors from causing prices to rise significantly, and hence guarantees that housing will remain affordable for future generations. Today, there are around 277 community land trusts across the United States.” (Community-Wealth.org)
– The Los Angeles Community Land Trust Coalition (LACLTC) is composed of five Community Land Trusts (CLTs) from across LA County. These include: Beverly-Vermont CLT (BVCLT), El Sereno CLT (ESCLT), T.R.U.S.T. South LA, Fideicomiso Comuntario Tierra Libre (FCTL) and Liberty Community Land Trust.
► Transit-Oriented Communities Program — “The Transit Oriented Communities (TOC) Incentive Program encourages the construction of affordable housing near bus and train stations. The new units generated by the TOC incentives provide convenient options for low-income residents, add to the City’s housing stock, and promote alternatives to car travel. Measure JJJ, passed by voters in 2016, amended the Los Angeles Municipal Code to create the TOC program, a package of new incentives for building affordable housing near public transit. The ballot initiative also required Los Angeles City Planning to create TOC guidelines for all housing developments within a half-mile radius of a major transit stop.” (LA City Planning)
– More on the TOC program via Curbed.
► Density Bonus Program — “Adopted in 2008, the density bonus program offers a whole “menu” of rewards for developers who agree to incorporate income-restricted units into their market-rate buildings. The rent on the units is restricted for 55 years…. A report released Monday by the city controller’s office found that from 2008 to 2014, just 329 income-restricted apartments and condos were built as a result of LA’s density bonus program, which offers developers the right to build bigger and taller than what zoning codes allow. In all, 21 percent of all multi-family complexes built in the city of Los Angeles in the six-year period from 2008 to 2014 took advantage of the program, creating 4,463 affordable units. But a large portion of those 4,134 units also took advantage of other incentive tools and probably would have been built without the density bonus program.” (Curbed LA)
– “Although it has been eclipsed in some ways by the Transit Oriented Communities guidelines, density bonus projects remain a popular tool for developers in the City of Los Angeles – particularly for sites without easy access to high-frequency bus service. According to the Planning Department’s Housing Progress Dashboard, density bonus projects accounted for approximately 26,700 proposed residential units between 2016 and 2020 – more than 17 percent of the roughly 152,000 units planned during that time period.” (Urbanize LA)
► Social Housing — Social Housing is publicly maintained housing developments. It can take many forms, but at its core Social Housing means taking a property off the speculative real estate market so that it can be owned by either the building’s tenants as a collective, or by the government. (CBS SFBay Area)
► Decommodified Housing — Decommodifying housing means taking housing off the speculative market, so it can’t be bought and sold for a profit. Instead, there are alternative housing models, like community land trusts and permanent real estate cooperatives, which create secure and affordable housing for generations to come.
► Costa Hawkins — “The Costa Hawkins Rental Housing Act, established in 1995, is a state law that sets some requirements for the cities in California with rent control—the city of Los Angeles included. There are three main provisions:
– It protects a landlord’s right to raise the rent to market rate on a unit once a tenant moves out.
– It prevents cities from establishing rent control—or capping rent—on units constructed after February, 1995.
– It exempts single-family homes and condos from rent control restrictions.
– The state bill also prevents cities from updating date-of-construction provisions in ordinances in place at the time of its passage.” (Curbed LA)
► LA Rent Stabilization Ordinance (RSO) — “The city of Los Angeles’s main rent control law is the Rent Stabilization Ordinance, or RSO, passed in 1979. It restricts rent control to units built prior to October 1978, a date frozen in place by Costa Hawkins. Under the RSO, yearly rent increases are capped at 3 to 8 percent, but landlords who own buildings constructed after 1978 are subject only to California’s new restrictions on rent gouging. The state bill limits yearly rent increases to 5 percent, plus the local rate of inflation (which averaged 2.5 percent in Los Angeles County between 2001 and 2018). In years when the rate of inflation is particularly high, rent hikes are capped at 10 percent.” (Curbed LA)
► The Tenant Protection Act (AB 1482) — “AB 1482 was signed into law by the Governor on October 13th, 2019 to prevent rent-gouging and unfair evictions. AB 1482 provides for an annual statewide rent cap of 5% + CPI, just cause eviction protections, and relocation assistance for just cause no-fault evictions. The changes in AB 1482 are some of the broadest sweeping changes in statewide tenant policy in years, but it will require renters and advocates to take action to enforce these new rights. Note that not all tenants are covered by this new act.” (Tenants Together)
– AB 1482 passed in 2019 which basically caps rent increases at about ~5% + CPI per year. This bill is enforced at the local level and through the AGs office.
► AB 140 Housing Budget Trailer Bill – “Comprises the largest housing and homelessness investment in the state’s history. The package includes $10.3 billion for affordable housing development and $12 billion over two years to address homelessness throughout the state. Included in the homelessness funding is $5.8 billion to support 42,000 housing units through Homekey, as well as $2 billion in aid to local governments through the state’s Homeless Housing, Assistance, and Prevention grant program (HHAP). Additional information on the Administration’s housing and homelessness investments is available here.” (CHEAC)
► Foreclosure Intervention Housing Program “Makes $500mil available to Community Land Trusts and other nonprofits to acquire and rehabilitate 1-25 unit buildings that are at risk of foreclosure. Buildings acquired through FIHPP will be reserved for low-income families for generations, creating badly needed affordable housing and providing tenants a pathway to stability and ownership rather than displacement. More information is available in the factsheet at https://www.cacltnetwork.org/fihpp/.“ (CACLTN)