A Los Angeles City Councilman who helped craft a proposed affordable housing “linkage fee” expressed confidence that the measure would pass when it comes up for a vote Wednesday.
The fee would be added to new developments in the city, and the $100 million it would raise would be used for affordable housing in the fight against homelessness.
The fee has been one of the most hotly debated proposals to come through Los Angeles City Hall in recent times, with some council members and key business leaders expressing hesitation while it was debated at four Planning and Land Use Management Committee meetings.
But some of the skeptical council members appear to have moved toward supporting the fee.
“We’ve got something that I think should be able to pass on Wednesday and that most council members at least have come around to support, from the sense I get,” Councilman Jose Huizar, who chairs the Planning Committee, told City News Service.
Under the proposed ordinance, commercial and residential developers would have to pay a fee for every square foot of new construction, with the estimated $100 million per year it would raise to be used to provide affordable housing units.
Skeptics of the proposal fretted that it could discourage development overall or that poor tenants would suffer as landlords passed the cost of the fee onto them.
Huizar said the fee is lower than some studies had shown that developers could absorb, which helped reduce the level of opposition in the business community.
“We don’t think that there will be any slowdown in growth. We could have charged more in this fee but we chose not to. And we did that purposefully so that we have a large buffer there that will not discourage any development,” he said.
A report by the Department of City Planning and Housing and Community Investment Department estimates the fee could raise between $93.7 million and $114.3 million per year, with a tiered structure ranging from $8 to $15 per square foot for residential projects and $3 to $5 for commercial ones, depending on the market value of the neighborhood.
Huizar pointed out that the city’s affordable housing trust fund had around $100 million in it in 2010, but it has nearly dried up as state and federal contributions have plummeted.
“… We are one of the last large cities in the country that doesn’t have consistent revenue stream to build affordable housing,” Huizar said.
Councilman Mitchell Englander expressed some criticism of the fee at one meeting, but later said that he had always supported a linkage fee, and that it had just been a question of finding the “sweet spot” that doesn’t slow development.
Councilman Gil Cedillo suggested he wasn’t necessarily against the fee but cast some doubt on how effective it could be.
“If we think this is the whole solution we are really making a mistake,” Cedillo told City News Service in June.
But last week Cedillo waived consideration of the linkage fee from his Housing Committee, which cleared the path for it to be voted on before the end of the year.
“The councilmember supports the proposed ordinance which creates one more policy tool toward addressing our city’s affordable housing crisis. The matter will now be sent forward to the full council,” Fredy Ceja, Cedillo’s spokesman, wrote in an email to City News Service.
Council members Marqueece Harris-Dawson and Mike Bonin have also been vocal supporters of the linkage fee, which other California cities such as Oakland, San Diego and San Francisco have, as do other cities around the country.
“When I was in college, Boston established an affordable housing linkage fee,” Bonin said in August. “… I remember the headlines in the Boston Globe — the sky was going to fall and the world was going to end, housing would stop and the boom in Boston would end. It didn’t happen.”
But some groups have argued that the fee will slow down housing. The Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce has said, “The business community strongly supports affordable and workforce housing, but this proposal will make low- and middle-class housing more expensive to build and more expensive to rent or own.”
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti set a goal in 2014 of constructing more than 100,000 units in Los Angeles by 2021 as a way to combat a housing shortage that has contributed to rising rents and an increase in homelessness in the city.
—City News Service
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