An Amendment On Right Of Return

Apartment Building

March 3, 2021

In addition to passing our motion on Project Roomkey, Council approved another item today about affordable housing. It flew under the radar, but it also has big implications for addressing our city’s housing and homelessness crisis.

The motion, presented by Councilmember Nury Martinez and Councilmember Gil Cedillo asks the City to study a citywide one-to-one replacement ordinance for all affordable units. This means that if a building is redeveloped, it must replace every affordable unit with a new one in the new building.

Creating a uniform citywide replacement policy would go a long way to protect LA’s stock of affordable housing. But we need to go further than maintaining our affordable housing. We need to make sure it grows!

Right now, developers are often allowed to count replacement units towards the affordability requirements in new projects. This doesn’t make sense. We need to prohibit double counting and require replacement in addition to any affordable set asides in new projects.

Finally, we need to consider how affordable these new units are, and whether previous tenants are allowed to move back. Angelenos displaced by development aren’t helped by laws protecting units -- unless they’re allowed to return to a comparable unit at an affordable rate.

Right now, a law guaranteeing “right of return” only applies to some projects. Councilmember Martinez and our office worked to amend the motion to make sure this right applies to all projects in LA, so we’re not just protecting affordable units, but also the people who live in them.

These potential new laws don’t solve every problem. Tenants are still forced to move twice, and many decide it’s not worth coming back. Today’s motion does get us closer, however, to a city that protects its most vulnerable, and I’m proud to have played a small role in it.