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Homebuilding is up but affordable housing is still a distant goal

FILE: Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti says that the city is building more housing faster, but still struggles with affordability. Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images

The city of Los Angeles is building new homes at a rate not seen since the 1980s, but it is still far from fixing its housing crunch, Mayor Eric Garcetti said Friday.

Garcetti set a goal of building 100,000 new units over his eight years in office. Halfway in, LA is nearly two-thirds of the way toward meeting that pledge. But most of this new housing is priced at market rates. Meanwhile, the city continues to grapple with record homelessness, rising rents and a typical home price of $630,000 dollars.

Speaking at a housing summit organized by the Los Angeles Business Council, Garcetti said the city has sped up permitting for many new developments, and is subsidizing more units.

But he said the city’s half-million homeowners can also create more housing by building granny flats in their backyards. If 10 percent of these homeowners did so, there would be 50,000 more units.   

"It is a priority of my administration to make this easy, to find more neighborhoods that embrace this and to get those numbers into the tens of thousands in the coming years," Garcetti said. 

New state laws easing the permitting of granny flats have already made a difference. Garcetti's housing advisor Ben Winter said the city has seen about 2,000 applications this year — more than double what the city received over the last decade.  

Garcetti also urged support for other new initiatives, including a proposed "linkage" fee on developers to help pay for subsidized housing. He said the fee is moving toward a vote by the City Council this year. 

He also announced a new pilot project that would provide $4 million in financing to affordable housing developers to rehab old buildings at risk of conversion to more expensive housing, a growing problem given rapid gentrification in many neighborhoods.

Winter said the financing would help keep about 200 units in a dozen or so buildings affordably-priced.