|The Lookout Letter to the editor|
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By Natalya Zernitskaya
In Santa Monica, renters need to earn $95,000 to afford a rent-controlled studio apartment and the stock of rent-controlled units continues to steadily decrease.
A 2017 report found that, at the current rate of approved projects per year, it would take 60 years for Santa Monica to build enough housing stock to fill the gap.
Clearly, current policy is plagued with loopholes that limit enough new housing from being built and push even middle-earners out of the housing market.
We need to take a hard look at our responsibility to our working neighbors, including the workers at local restaurants and stores, healthcare providers and essential workers who are squeezed out of housing.
We should have no illusions about the impact current housing policies have on our communities. Decades of housing discrimination have concentrated multi-unit housing in low-income communities of color. This has created racially segregated neighborhoods and led to deep health and educational inequities.
Current state and local laws have made it extremely difficult for local governments to adopt forward-looking, housing-friendly zoning changes that will allow for modest increases in density -- even the mildest efforts to rezone properties are held up in protracted lawsuits.
It would authorize local governments to rezone some areas for new housing with up to ten homes per parcel, and exempt some housing -- urban infill projects near high quality public transportation or jobs rich areas -- from the protracted CEQA lawsuits that prevent construction.
SB 902 will preserve local control by local officials while also making it faster, less expensive, and less risky for a city to undertake a community process to increase density in our communities.
LA’s Westside is represented by Assemblymember Richard Bloom, who has long championed policy changes that support affordable and market-rate housing, including updates to the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act that allowed local jurisdictions to stabilize rents on units that are more than 10 years old, and single family rentals.
He also sought ways to make state-mandated Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) goals more data-driven, allowing local governments to project housing needs taking into account factors such as job growth and regional constraints to housing development.
We must face reality in cities like Santa Monica, Hollywood, Hollywood Hills, Mid-City where housing policy has pushed out lower-income residents, and is increasingly making the barriers to working here and raising a family too high for middle-income Californians.
It’s time to encourage demand and supply to come into balance so that housing stock will more accurately reflect actual demand, and correct course to make our communities stronger, healthier, and more inclusive.
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