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L.A. Moves One Step Closer To Imposing Affordable Housing Linkage Fee On Developers

(Photo by Sandy Gonzales via the LAist Featured Photos pool on Flickr)
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On Tuesday, a City Council committee voted in favor of a controversial plan to create an affordable housing linkage fee, which would fund affordable housing in the city through a fee levied on developers. The plan still needs to go before the full council for a vote before it is approved, which will likely happen sometime in the coming weeks.

The plan for a so-called affordable housing linkage fee has been championed by Mayor Eric Garcetti, who first introduced the idea in October 2015. The proposed ordinance is expected to generate between $94 to $114 million for affordable housing annually through development fees on new construction, according to a statement from Councilmember José Huizar's office.

A linkage fee, for those not familiar with the term, is not too far off from what it sounds like: by instituting a small fee on new developments, the city can "link" the production of affordable housing to other new construction. The proposed Los Angeles affordable housing linkage fee would require developers of certain market-rate housing projects to either include affordable housing on-site, or contribute to a fund that supports new affordable housing production. San Francisco, Boston, and West Hollywood are among the cities that already have similar linkage fee programs in place. Los Angeles, according to Huizar's office, "is the only major city to not have a local dedicated revenue source to build housing that is affordable."

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Department of City Planning staff present to the committee during the meeting. (Photo by L.A. City Planning via Twitter)

The City Council's Planning and Land Use Committee approved the proposed ordinance during Tuesday's meeting by a large margin, with four of the committee's five members voting in favor of it. The committee had previously voted to delay their decision on the proposal after an hours-long, heated hearing in June. An earlier version of the proposed ordinance was then approved by the committee in August.

“Today’s vote cannot be understated - it represents a critical step if the City of Los Angeles truly wants to address our affordable housing crisis head on,” Councilmember Huizar said in a statement Tuesday. “Our goals for this linkage fee ordinance are to get at homelessness before it has a chance - to use the hundreds of millions of dollars the ordinance will generate to keep people in their homes and protect affordable housing covenants set to expire, as well as to build new affordable homes for workers and families."

A broad coalition of affordable housing groups, community and worker organizations, and clergy have actively supported the proposed linkage fee, speaking out in favor of it at committee meetings and rallies.

Developers have been outspoken against the proposed fee, with some arguing that the elevated costs will actually make housing more expensive, and stifle production. "The supply will be reduced. The cost of building will increase. There’ll be upward pressure on rents," Jeffrey Lee Costell, a lawyer representing the Building Industry Legal Defense Foundation, told the committee Tuesday, according to KPCC.

The proposed ordinance will head to full council for a vote as soon as it passes the city's housing committee (it will either be heard before the committee, or waived forward).

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