The Los Angeles City Council voted Tuesday to grant amnesty to existing illegal dwelling units at multi-family complexes as long as certain affordability requirements are met.
The measure is aimed at preserving housing units at risk of being taken off the market amid a housing crisis in Los Angeles, with city officials estimating that 400-500 units are eliminated each year following inspections of multi-family units.
The City Council directed the City Attorney to draft an ordinance that would give owners of multi-family complexes a path toward making their unapproved units legal.
Under the policy, property owners would need to follow a set of requirements, one of which is to make one additional unit on the property affordable for very low, low or moderate income households for at least 55 years.
In order to discourage the construction of more illegal units, property owners must prove the units they are trying to legalize existed as of Dec. 10, 2015.
The amnesty measure would not apply to illegal units on single-family properties — such as granny flats or garage conversions — which are being addressed separately.
The proposed ordinance would only apply to illegal units converted from non-residential spaces — such as recreation rooms — into living units.
Councilman Felipe Fuentes, who proposed the measure, says existing city laws do not give property owners enough time to work at bringing their illegal units into compliance, leading to tenant evictions in about 80 percent of such dwellings found by the city.
The city issued citations against the owners of 2,560 illegal units between 2010 and 2015, according to a city report. While 201 were legalized, 1,765 were ultimately removed, which is estimated to have reduced the city’s net housing creation by nearly 10 percent during that period.
City inspectors have said that owners of illegal properties are usually capable of meeting building and safety requirements but are discouraged by zoning rules limiting the number of units they are allowed to have.
Property owners are often put off by the $20,000 price tag for seeking a zoning variance that would permit the extra unit, and instead opt to take the unit off the market entirely, leaving tenants without housing, city planning officials said in a report.
Other cities, such as San Francisco, West Hollywood and Santa Monica, have already established ways for legalizing unapproved housing units.
—Staff and wire reports
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