June 14, 2016

[photo credit” Mariana Huerta Jones]

By Mariana Huerta Jones

The Alliance for Community Transit – Los Angeles (ACT-LA), a citywide alliance of thirty-one housing advocacy and equitable transit organizations, has become a unified force in the movement for housing justice and equitable transit-oriented development in Los Angeles. Seeing the need to coordinate organizing and advocacy efforts among dozens of grassroots organizations to achieve citywide policy, ACT-LA coalesced in 2011 and has since been active in the local housing rights movement.

With one of the worst rates of income inequality and the most unaffordable housing market in the country due to rising rents and stagnant low wages, the urgency to pass bold policy in L.A.  has become clearer than ever. Earlier this year, ACT-LA formed a historic partnership with the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO – the Build Better LA (BBLA) Coalition – in order to advance a ballot initiative that would create affordable housing and higher-wage, local jobs.

In February, the BBLA Coalition began collecting the required signatures to qualify the initiative for the November ballot. Last week, the City officially certified our signatures, confirming that the measure is heading to the ballot.

If passed, the initiative will incentivize developers to create more affordable housing near transit via an “enhanced density bonus,” and ensure that a percentage of residential units are set aside for low-income, very low income and extremely low-income residents on projects that receive discretionary zone changes or General Plan amendments. There is a “no net loss” policy that ensures affordable units destroyed by developers are replaced. In addition, the measure includes local hire and apprenticeship program provisions as well as a targeted hire program for workers who face barriers to employment in order to ensure that the construction jobs created are providing a living wage with good job standards.

A majority of Los Angeles renters are seeing their rents continue to rise while their wages stagnate while also seeing a boom in residential construction in several areas of the City. However, much of this housing development is luxury apartments, not built for the typical family. Market-rate and luxury housing has been one of the drivers of gentrification and housing displacement experienced by low-income families, and communities of color in urban Los Angeles.

With over $40 billion dollars being poured into a massive transit expansion in Los Angeles, mixed-use and mixed-income development along these train routes can create hundreds of good jobs, increase housing density in Los Angeles’ historic low-rise environment, and could offer working families an opportunity to have decent housing, job opportunities, and faster commute times, while improving the quality of life for L.A.’s working poor.

The Build Better LA measure has the potential to make Los Angeles a more livable and inclusive city. Given the reception our campaign received during our signature gathering drive, we know L.A. residents are ready to support a proposal that will create and preserve affordable housing, and bring quality jobs to those who need it most. ACT-LA and the Build Better LA Coalition will be engaging renters – which make up  the vast majority of Angelenos – as well as homeowners, business owners, transit riders, seniors, and youth every day until election day in November to ensure that our city prioritizes low-cost housing and good jobs.

For more information, see www.allianceforcommunitytransit.org. Follow us on Twitter @all4transit and on Facebook www.facebook.com/ACTLosAngeles.

Mariana Huerta Jones is an L.A. native, and serves as the Campaign and Communications Coordinator with the Alliance for Community Transit – Los Angeles (ACT-LA). She has a Masters in Urban and Regional Planning and has spent several years organizing with low-wage workers. She can be reached at mhuerta@allianceforcommunitytransit.org.