California Leaders Finally Wake Up to Our Ridiculous Rent Crisis

Last year we wrote that "America's worst housing crisis is getting no action from City Hall." This year the Los Angeles Times got on the bandwagon and opined that "L.A. has a serious housing crisis and it's time for city officials to do something about it." A few City Council members have stepped forward to point out their own proposals for relief, although they remained as proposals in a body that has had no problem swiftly passing a cat-declawing ban or giving $39 million of your tax dollars to Chinese developers.

This week Assembly Speaker Toni G. Atkins got on the case with a proposal to fund affordable housing, make available $300 million in additional tax credits for qualified low-income renters, and tap savings from Proposition 47, which will keep thousands of low-level drug offenders out of prison, to help house former inmates.

L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti joined Atkins and other leaders, including state Treasurer John Chiang and Assemblymen Ed Chau, Jimmy Gomez and David Chiu, when she announced her legislation yesterday. The mayor said:

This legislative package of new funding for affordable housing, financial incentives for preservation and construction, and improving government efficiency to get the most for every dollar we invest is a balanced, common-sense approach that will make life easier for thousands of L.A. families and tremendously boost our economy.

The proposal also would create a program for spending National Housing Trust Fund money expected to come to the state next year.

In a city where Angelenos more often than not pay nearly half their income on rent in one of the least affordable housing markets in the nation, it's nice to see some action.

Atkins says her bill would "generate hundreds of millions annually for affordable housing and leverage billions of dollars more in federal, local and bank investment. This plan will reap benefits for education, healthcare and public safety as well. The outcomes sought in other sectors improve when housing instability is addressed."

It would be nice to see more local action on the issue, too, but housing is a third rail in a town where NIMBY homeowners and businesspeople populate influential neighborhood groups and where candidates for City Council usually crawl over each other in the scramble to be seen as the most anti-development candidate (while they often take developers' dollars).

Renters in Los Angeles are legion (half of Angelenos rent), but it's a transient population that's much less likely to vote than other demographic groups. Until that changes, L.A. will likely remain as one of the worst cities in America for housing.

Send feedback and tips to the author. Follow Dennis Romero on Twitter at @dennisjromero. Follow L.A. Weekly News on Twitter at @laweeklynews.


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