Housing Element Rezoning Program | FAQ

1. What is the 2021-2029 Housing Element Rezoning Program? 

The City is currently working on developing the Housing Element Rezoning Program’s strategies to create the development capacity, particularly new opportunities for deed restricted affordable housing, for the City to meet its state housing obligations and provide greater housing access necessary for Los Angeles to address its diverse housing needs. The Housing Element Rezoning Program consists of several different implementation programs, including the Citywide Housing Incentive Program, Resident Protections Ordinance, Housing Element Sites Ordinance, Citywide Adaptive Reuse Ordinance, and Community Plan updates. Together, these programs will work to create the necessary zoning capacity needed to accommodate the City’s housing needs, with a strong focus on incentivizing the development of lower-income housing.

To learn more about the Citywide Housing Incentive Program concepts, check out the Strategies tab.

2. What is the role of the Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA)?

RHNA is the California State-required process that seeks to ensure cities and counties plan for enough housing in their Housing Element cycle to accommodate all economic segments of the community. Every eight years, the State of California determines the number of housing units that must be accommodated by every region throughout the State. The Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) takes that larger regional number and allocates the units among all cities and counties in the Southern California region, this is known as the Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) allocation. All jurisdictions must show they have enough adequate and suitable sites for housing development to accommodate their RHNA allocation at each income level.

If jurisdictions do not have enough zoning capacity to accommodate their RHNA allocations, they must identify within the Housing Element how they will create the necessary zoning capacity to meet their housing needs through a Housing Element Rezoning Program. For the City of Los Angeles, a rezoning need was identified, which obligates the City to adopt and effectuate a rezoning program to accommodate at least 255,432 new units of housing capacity by February 2025. To learn more about the RHNA, capacity analysis, and rezoning need click here.

3. Why do we need the Rezoning Program?

The 2021-2029 Housing Element’s zoning analysis found that the City does not have the zoning capacity necessary to accommodate its RHNA obligations. As a result, under state law, Los Angeles has a legal obligation to develop and adopt a rezoning program to create at least 255,432 new units of housing capacity by February 2025.

4. How does the Citywide Housing Incentive Program address racial equity?

Both state and federal Affirmatively Further Fair Housing (AFFH) laws require local governments to take meaningful actions through their housing programs aimed at overcoming patterns of segregation and fostering inclusive communities free from barriers that restrict access to opportunity. Many Angelenos remain largely segregated and excluded from Higher Opportunity Areas due to historic and ongoing structural inequities such as redlining, racially restrictive covenants, and exclusionary zoning. The Citywide Housing Incentive Program serves as one of the City’s commitments to AFFH and emphasizes an equitable approach that prioritizes:

  • Focusing new housing capacity in Higher Opportunity areas
  • Protecting communities vulnerable to displacement and housing pressures
  • Promoting housing near jobs and transit and away from environmentally hazardous areas
  • Maximizing affordability and community benefits

To learn more about how the program addresses equity read our blogs - What are High Opportunity Areas, Equity Report Part 1, and Equity Report Part 2.

5. What is “Access to Opportunity”?

The term “access to opportunity” refers to Angelenos’ ability to access the City’s Higher Opportunity Areas, which have a dense concentration of place-based opportunities such as high quality transit, jobs, high performing schools, and lower exposure to environmental hazards and pollutants. Each year the California Tax Credit Allocation Committee and the California Department of Housing and Community Development release maps that identify “high resource” and “highest resource” areas state-wide called TCAC/HCD Opportunity Areas Maps. These maps help guide local jurisdictions in identifying Higher Opportunity Areas.

6. Will sites identified in the Housing Element be rezoned?

State law (§65583.2(h)) required the Housing Element to identify and analyze candidate sites to be considered for future rezoning based on suitability and availability. Each site identified as a potential candidate site for rezoning is listed in the Inventory of Candidate Sites for Rezoning (Appendix 4.7) and linked to one or more specific rezoning Strategies. The Inventory of Candidate Sites for Rezoning lists many more sites and potential units than are necessary to satisfy the RHNA requirements. Sites included on the list should be considered as potential sites for rezoning consideration, not a final list of sites that will be rezoned. Other sites may be added, and listed sites may be removed or amended. A public review process will help guide future recommendations as to which sites are rezoned at which densities but should follow the Housing Element’s objective of an equitable rezoning program that furthers fair housing goals.

The Citywide Housing Incentives will be based on general criteria and will not modify the underlying zoning, however, the Community Plan programs will be looking at communities at the local level to fine tune land use designations and zoning regulations at the parcel level.

7. Does the Housing Element Rezoning Program require us to build housing?

Although the Housing Element Rezoning Program focuses on creating the zoning capacity necessary to accommodate its RHNA targets, the actual development of housing is largely conducted by the private market. Increasing the residential zoning capacity of a site does not guarantee that construction will occur on that site.

8. What is the relationship between the Citywide Housing Incentives Program and the Community Plan Update program?

The Housing Element Rezoning Program encompasses a wide array of multifaceted efforts, including the Citywide Housing Incentive Program, and updates to 16 Community Plans and three neighborhood plans. Some of these efforts have already been approved by the City Planning Commission but are pending final adoption, while others are still in development. The Citywide Housing Incentive Program will work alongside the Community Plan updates to create citywide incentive-based and streamlining strategies aimed at creating more housing, especially more affordable housing.

The Citywide Housing Incentives will be based on general criteria and will not modify the underlying zoning, however, the Community Plan programs will be looking at communities at the local level to fine tune land use designations and zoning regulations at the parcel level. Ongoing coordination between the citywide and community planning teams, with respect to content and schedule, will ensure that efforts are aligned and compatible. To learn more about active Community and Neighborhood plan updates, click here.

9. What penalties would Los Angeles face if the rezoning target is not met (non-compliance)?

If the City falls significantly behind on its rezoning targets necessary to meet its RHNA allocation, Los Angeles could be deemed out of compliance and face major consequences, such as:

  • Not being eligible for major state funding sources for affordable housing construction (such as the Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities grant, the Infill Infrastructure Grant, etc.),
  • Weakened controls over local zoning (known as the “Builder’s Remedy”),
  • Court Imposed Fines (up to $600K per month), and
  • Other court actions to bring into compliance.

The Department of Housing and Community Development created a new Housing Accountability Unit to assist local governments and hold them accountable to their housing obligations over the next 6 years (2029).

10. How is Affordable Housing defined?

Affordable Housing is any housing unit that has a formal covenant or other legal protection that guarantees that the housing unit can only be occupied by someone within a set schedule of income. These units can be located in a building that is entirely income restricted, or in a mixed-income building where only a certain percentage of the units are restricted.

The housing cost of restricted affordable units is based on the current Area Median Income (AMI) in Los Angeles County, which in 2021 was $80,000. From the AMI, income categories are defined as follows:

  • Extremely Low Income: Less than 30% of AMI
  • Very Low Income: Between 30% and 50% of AMI
  • Low Income: Between 50% and 80% of AMI
  • Moderate Income: Between 80% and 120% of AMI

For up to date rent limits visit LAHD’s website by clicking here.

11. Where can Angelenos obtain information on finding Affordable Housing?

The Los Angeles Housing Department (LAHD) contains information on Affordable Housing, renters’ rights, and other helpful resources. Please visit the LAHD website for more information.

12. What outreach strategies are being developed to engage with historically excluded communities?

The Department will engage in myriad ways to perform public engagement and collect feedback vital to the development of the Citywide Housing Incentive Program. Outreach will launch in March of 2023 with a series of webinars (including in Spanish), followed by listening sessions to collect community feedback throughout the drafting and adoption process. The outreach strategies aim to engage a broad representation of Angelenos through both traditional methods, as well as a variety of intentional efforts. The Department has also enlisted additional community partners to perform outreach through Community Based Organizations (CBOs) throughout the process to engage with traditionally harder to reach populations.

13. How can the public be involved in the development of the Rezoning Program?

Community outreach and engagement is vital for the development of the Citywide Rezoning Program. Click here to join the email list and receive updates, learn about opportunities to shape the Ordinances, and be notified about major milestones.

14. Where can I read the 2021-2029 Housing Element?

The 2021-2029 Housing Element of the General Plan identifies the City’s housing conditions and needs, evaluates the City’s ability to meet its Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) allocation. It also establishes the goals, objectives, policies, and programs that will guide housing policy creation and implementation in the City during the eight year planning period. The City Council adopted the Housing Element on November 24, 2021, and readopted targeted amendments on June 14, 2022. Today, the City’s 2021-2029 Housing Element has been deemed fully compliant with State law by the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD). To learn more about the 2021-2029 Housing Element, click here.

15. How is the Adaptive Reuse Update a part of the City’s Rezoning Program?

Adaptive Reuse is identified as one of six key strategies for meeting the City’s housing needs as part of the Citywide Housing Incentive Program. The proposed Adaptive Reuse Ordinance expands the current incentives to encourage converting existing buildings into new housing. It will establish a faster approval process for the conversion of existing buildings and structures that are at least 15 years old (from date of building permit approval) to housing. Previously, only buildings constructed before July 1, 1974 were eligible. Buildings between five and 15 years old or projects requesting additional relief from development standards will need approval from a Zoning Administrator through a Conditional Use Permit. To learn more about the ordinance updates read the fact sheet here.

16. Will there be affordability requirements for adaptive reuse projects?

The Linkage Fee ordinance applies to new construction as well as the conversion of existing buildings to residential uses. The Linkage Fee ordinance allows for the substitution of set-aside, deed-restricted housing units with an in-lieu fee. At this time City Planning is conducting an economic feasibility study to determine if additional affordability requirements may be economically feasible for adaptive reuse conversions from non-residential to residential uses.

17. What is considered a Protected Unit?

Protected Units are housing units that have either been rented by lower income households within the past five years, have been subject to a recorded covenant, ordinance, or law that restricts rents to affordable income levels. Housing units are also considered Protected Units if they have been subject to the Rent Stabilization Ordinance (LAMC Section 151) or were withdrawn from rent or lease in accordance with the Ellis Act within the past 10 years.

18. Where can I find the sites affected by the Housing Element Sites Ordinance?

The Housing Element Sites Ordinance affects three types of sites, which are identified in different resources. For Housing Element Sites, refer to Chapter 4, Appendix 4.1 (Inventory of Adequate Sites for Housing) of the 2021-2029 Housing Element. Prior Housing Element Sites are identified in Column O of this Appendix. Additionally, the Department of City Planning’s Zone Information and Map Access System (ZIMAS) indicates if a parcel is a Housing Element Site under the ‘Housing’ tab. The Department is currently working to identify which sites in the CHIP and active Community Planning programs will be eligible for identification as Lower Income Rezoning Sites, more information will be provided on these web pages when available.

19. How do the housing replacement requirements proposed in Resident Protections Ordinance and Housing Element Sites Ordinance differ with other replacement requirement policies?

The housing replacement requirements outlined in the Housing Element Sites Ordinance closely align with existing requirements found in state law and those being proposed as part of the concurrent Resident Protections Ordinance. Until January 1, 2024, Housing Element law was distinctive in its application of replacement requirements to non-residential projects on Housing Element sites. However, with the enactment of AB 1218 (2023), effective from January 1, 2024, these requirements will extend to all development projects, rendering them largely redundant. The concurrently proposed Resident Protections Ordinance also extends replacement requirements for residential projects beyond 2030, while excluding non-residential projects.