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Amending the State Density Bonus Law (DBL)
According to the National Law Review, the State Density Bonus Law's purpose was to “offer density bonuses, incentives, and waivers” to housing developments that include a set number of affordable units. The DBL took a preventive measure to ensure a stock of low-income housing units be available to the city, as the population becomes denser.
Unfortunately, the DBL had a reverse effect because the law failed to stipulate that developers were required to replace their affordable housing units or rent-controlled buildings with an equal number of the same size and type of units or buildings.
California Assembly Bill 2222 (AB 2222) will amend sections 65915 and 65915.5 of the State Density Bonus Law. It will rectify a preexisting issue created by another piece of legislation, namely Senate Bill 1818. Senate Bill 1818 is more commonly referred to as the DBL.
Background on the DBL
The DBL was utilized as a zoning tool, which permitted developers to build more housing units (some with more floor space) or taller buildings. Generally, this extra space would not be permitted, hence the strategic use of “bonus” in the law’s name. The idea was to entice the developers with the extra space, so that they would be more inclined to do an exchange for a set number of affordable housing units within their development.
Although the DBL was implemented to address the housing density problem, it did not take into account the intrinsic motivations of many unscrupulous developers in the area. Therefore, the DBL created another problem for the existing communities, whereas they struggled more to remain intact after it was implemented.
Developers destroyed many rent-controlled apartments because they were not required under the DBL to replace them with rent-controlled apartments, after renovation. They did so by demolishing their developments and replacing them with newer, higher priced units.
This raised concern about housing security for the rapidly growing local population, in which many current residents are near homelessness (e.g., the individual or family lacks the resources or support networks needed to obtain other permanent housing, their residence will be lost within 14 days, and/or they are in the process of evictions).
Assemblyman Adrin Nazarian from the 46th district in Van Nuys identified this problem and authored AB 2222 to advocate for a policy change.
The legislative process for AB 2222 began when it was introduced for the first time and sent to print on February 20, 2014. Afterward, it was amended, re-referred, and read a few times. Then it passed Assembly on May 23, 2014.
AB 2222 also passed Senate on August 26, 2014, then was enrolled and presented to the Governor of California, Jerry Brown, at 3:30 p.m. on September 8, 2014. AB 2222 was signed into law and implemented by Governor Brown on September 27, 2014. The trigger date for AB 2222 was January 1, 2015.
This piece of legislation will protect California’s affordable housing supply and keep greedy developers from charging unaffordable rent to profit handsomely off the community.
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Opposition emerged from the Del Rey’s Residents Association. Residents on the neighborhood board expressed concerns that AB 2222 would create another problem. Their concern was that poor planning will be involved in the development projects and that their neighborhood would be left without adequate garage space. Specifically, the residents were concerned that there would be a lack of parking, which could lead to traffic problems.
The concerns seem minuscule in comparison to the window of opportunity for California to create more affordable housing.
Mayor Eric Garcetti is a stakeholder in AB 2222. On October 29, 2014, he gave a speech during the Mayoral Housing Transportation, and Jobs Summit at UCLA, about his plan to build “100,000 new housing units”. Mayor Garcetti stated that he wants to increase affordability and the housing supply by enforcing protections in the city rent stabilization, reducing tenant displacement, and reallocating funds to implement AB 2222 effectively. His overall goal is to end homelessness, especially among the veteran population.
However, more funding will be needed for residents because Southern California Association of Non Profit Housing released a report in March, which indicated that Los Angeles County is “short 500,000 affordable homes”.
Scope of the Problem
Full recognition of the scope of this crisis is important.
Rising Rent and Falling Wages
Los Angeles County’s median rent rose by 25% from 2000 to 2012, while the county's median income dropped by 9%. And, in June, rent rose by 6.1%, so LA county renters found that a typical 2-bedroom apartment in LA was listed for approximately $2,350. Rising rent and falling wages are major concerns to many, in particular young adults (e.g., college students), with bad credit and higher levels of student loan debt. This problem is a significant one, which poses more problems for other vulnerable populations such as, veterans and the elderly.
According to the Center for Housing Policy and National Housing Conference, 39% of working households in the metropolitan Los Angeles area spend over half their incomes on rent. The lack of affordable housing is of foremost concern for non-renters in the Los Angeles area, as well. Because real estate prices jumped 20% in LA County last year, it has been reported that half of the LA county households also spend nearly 30% of their income on mortgage payments.
Population Growth Outpacing Affordable Housing
Many potential owners and people with foreclosed homes are being forced into the rental market. This has exacerbated the number of poor renters in the area. Unfortunately, the supply of affordable housing has dropped constantly over the years, while the demand for it has risen dramatically. In 2007, California’s population reached 36.5 million and it is expected to jump to 49 million by the year 2025. At this rate in conjunction with the declining value of public assistance, the lack of affordable housing in Los Angeles County is also likely to have negative impacts on the health and well-being of its community.
Impacts on Physical and Financial Well-Being
Unaffordable rent in the area has caused lower-income families to spend less on basic necessities, such as food. The affordable housing crisis has also made it even more challenging for lower income families to save money. Because they are unable to save money, they cannot build wealth, which hinders them from gaining stability or any type of housing security for the future.
The lack of affordable housing leads toward multiple moves or crowding, which is what defines housing insecurity. These characteristics are also associated with measures of poor health, growth, and development in children, which is consistent with research on adults and adolescents. This issue of housing insecurity was found to predict food insecurity, in that households with strained resources cannot afford nutritious food to pursue active, healthy lives. Also, children who experience multiple moves were found to have worse reported health statuses, increased developmental risks, and below average weights than expected for their ages.
Impacts on Mental Health
The affordable housing issue has sparked concerns among mental health professionals who have been “studying the impact of the physical environment on such factors as problem-solving, productivity, and violent behavior “. These professionals suggest that different aspects of the physical environment are contributing factors to the health of its residents. Also, public health officials have given warning about the new types of infectious diseases, which are fueled by dense cities that can contribute to contagion.
All things considered, there are detrimental effects associated with the lack of affordable housing. There are long-term negative effects of early experiences with ill-fitting physical environments, such as frequent movement between homes, and systemic problems involved with density (e.g., an outbreak). From a social work perspective, the lack of affordable housing has negative outcomes and causes inconsistency in the individual’s life. It can cause the person to have no secure base or stable place of attachment. People need to have healthy attachments with their environments to formulate their identities.
The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) Code of Ethics identifies social justice as one of their six core values of social work, which mandates all social workers to challenge social injustice. The affordable housing crisis is a social injustice issue that AB 2222 challenges by exposing the greedy developer’s schemes and ultimately empowering California residents in the process.
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Community Impact and Recommendations
Affordable housing is the foundation of a flourishing and productive society. It directly impacts a family’s capacity to afford additional necessities, such as food. Unfortunately, cities in California like Pasadena have a shortage of affordable housing, leaving its residents struggling to live here.
In the past decade alone, housing prices have nearly doubled in Pasadena. In that same time frame, rent has skyrocketed a staggering 50 percent. Federal support is needed for the City to increase its supply of affordable housing. This will allow Pasadena’s families to live healthy, productive lives.
Because AB 2222 is in the implementation process, constituents within the San Gabriel Valley need to confront the Honorable Congresswoman Judy Chu, of California’s 27th congressional district, with this issue. She has previously shown interest in the issue of affordable housing when she voted in support of AB 2378, a bill that dealt specifically with amendments to another density bonus law. Also, her congressional effort to protect the San Gabriel Mountains illustrates her commitment to preserving the community for current and future generations.
It is imperative that Pasadena residents who are in need of affordable housing call, email, or write her office about the importance of making AB 2222 a priority in future decision-making. If implemented effectively, AB 2222 can help alleviate the affordable housing crisis in Pasadena because it promotes the need for affordable housing and safeguards it for future utilization.
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
© 2017 Crystal Gordon