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Los Angeles Wants To Legalize Almost 600 Bootleg Apartments

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The housing crunch has made affordable housing scarce in Los Angeles, so city leaders are now moving forward with permitting hundreds of illegal apartments.On Tuesday, the City Council voted to draft a law that would legalize almost 600 so-called "bootleg" apartments—plus any other units inspectors don't know about. The bootleg apartments are created out of spaces like rec rooms. They violate zoning laws, but are otherwise safe and inhabitable. The proposal was put forth by councilman Felipe Fuentes who, according to City News Service, said, "We can add some flexibility to the existing law so that we preserve these units," without displacing families.

Between 2010 and 2015, almost 1,800 of these illegal units had their tenants removed, while only 201 were approved.

The proposed law has been a rare uniting force for advocates of landlords and tenants. Jim Clarke, executive vice president of the Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles calls it a "win-win." "The housing department is supposed to be creating housing, not taking it off the market," he told the L.A. Times.

"It is very unusual that you have the landlords and the tenant activists in the city on the same page, saying, 'Yes, we agree on this,'" said Adam Murray, executive director of Inner City Law Center.

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Councilman Mitch Englander says it would also improve the standard of living for some people in these units. "This will provide that safety mechanism, legalize [the units], provide the opportunity for them to live safely," he said.

Among the chief concerns of the proposal for some would be the potential for unchecked traffic and crowding. "It does not help us to have unplanned density crammed into our neighborhoods," Elizabeth Pollock, president of the Del Rey Resident Association, told the Times. Proponents say there wouldn't be any current increase in density since it would only apply units that were already there.

Currently, West Hollywood and Santa Monica both have similar laws in place.

The new laws would not apply to units such as those that exist on properties for single-family homes, such as garages, but Fuentes said he hoped to take that on next.