The City of Los Angeles could be getting into the housing development game, according to a motion introduced yesterday by Councilmember Mike Bonin.

Citing a study from the California Housing Partnership and Southern California Association of Nonprofit Housing, Bonin notes that Los Angeles County needs to add more than 500,000 units of affordable housing simply to meet existing demand from low-income renters.  Given the scale of the current shortfall of low-income and mid-range workforce housing, Bonin contends that the region will never address its needs by relying solely on private sector builders to developer affordable housing through tax credits, subsidies, and zoning incentives.

Instead, Bonin proposes the development of social housing - housing that is both built and owned by the government.  But rather than the housing projects that fell out of fashion during the 20th century in many American cities, Bonin describes social housing having a mix of incomes, with close proximity to public transportation and located in close proximity to public transportation, amenities, stores, and restaurants.

The motion proposes a program modeled after those in European countries such as Finland and Sweden, in which social housing is owned and managed by the government or non-profit organizations, with provisions for low- and middle-income households.  Management is most often contracted out to providers, and resident councils are often included in decision-making structures for the communities.

The motion, which has been referred to the City Council's Housing Committee for consideration, calls for a report from City departments and stakeholder organizations on the various forms that social housing takes across the world and on ways to remove administrative barriers to the development of such projects - including a voter-approved limit of 3,500 units of public housing per City Council district.

The motion also calls for a report on potential funding sources for social housing in Los Angeles, including state and federal dollars and new local tax revenues.

Although the City of Los Angeles does not currently develop housing, it owns more than 6,500 apartments between 14 different residential developments.  In recent years, the City has partnered with private developers to rebuild and expand on several of these facilities, including Jordan Downs in Watts, Dana Strand in Wilmington, and Rancho San Pedro near the Port of Los Angeles.

The proposal from Bonin comes as Los Angeles continues to grapple with a housing affordability crisis and spiking homelessness, and is one of a variety of strategies floated by elected officials.

Last week, 1st District Councilmember Gil Cedillo introduced a motion which calls for a report on the possibility of using eminent domain to purchase apartment buildings to preserve expiring affordable covenants.

Bonin, in a separate motion, has also called for an amendment to the City's Rent Stabilization Ordinance which would eliminate the 3 percent floor for allowable rent increases.  Instead, annual rent increases would be limited to 60 percent of the consumer price index, should the proposal become law.