In an effort to create more affordable housing in wealthier, so-called higher resource neighborhoods, the Los Angeles City Council has called for preparation of an ordinance that would incentivize affordable housing projects in such areas.

The council voted 12-0 last Friday to direct the Department of City Planning to prepare an ordinance that would expand incentives for projects located on land already zoned for multi-family housing, with a focus on commercial zones, transit areas and corridors. The city would also incentivize projects on publicly owned land, parking zones and land owned by faith-based institutions.

Councilman Mike Bonin, who said affordable housing is difficult to build in his Westside district, urged LA City Planning officials to “come back with something that is as strong as possible that makes it mandatory to do it.”

The council called for options to create an “Affordable Housing Overlay Zone’’ that Councilwoman Nithya Raman – who introduced the motion – said would ensure affordable housing projects in higher resource areas are economically feasible for developers, as it costs more to build housing in wealthier neighborhoods. The zoning would allow more affordable housing to be built near public parks, transit schools, grocery stores and health facilities.

The incentives could include “ministerial approval” for such projects, meaning the permitting process would be streamlined and the project was given approval as long as it meets certain objective standards.

The council also instructed the department to report back on recommendations for a local incentive program to increase the number of affordable housing units for projects in higher resource neighborhoods.

About 76% of Los Angeles’ highest resource areas are zoned for single-family homes, while only 18% of the “high-segregation and poverty areas” are zoned for single-family homes, city planning officials said last year. 

This motion comes on the heels of another motion that asked the City Council to allow temporary shelters, like A Bridge Homes and Project Roomkey Hotels, to be made permanent and to amend parts of the municipal code to allow shelters to be built in residential areas next to nonprofit organizations and religious institutions.

In a motion submitted in February by Bonin — the councilman stated that temporary shelters for the homeless are allowed on City-owned and City leased properties in any zone, including residential and business, therefore wants nonprofit and religious organizations to be able to do the same.

The decisions by the city of Los Angeles follow recent efforts in Sacramento to encourage new housing production as state officials say California needs to build about 310,000 new housing units per year over the next eight years — more than two-and-a-half times the number the state normally builds each year.

State lawmakers and labor leaders recently announced they would back two bills to encourage housing production on commercial land. 

One bill would let homebuilders bypass the local approval process and build housing on some commercial land if a certain percentage of the homes they build are affordable. A separate bill would let developers build market-rate housing on commercial land, but remain subject to a local approval process.