Greg Spiegel is Director of Policy and Communications at Inner City Law Center.
There is a proposed ordinance before the planning subcommittee of the Los Angeles City Council that would devastate affordable housing for people with disabilities and low-income families. The innocuous sounding “Community Care Facilities Ordinance” is a Jekyl-and-Hyde bill that gives with one hand and takes away with the other. Half of the ordinance would put the City in conformance with state laws promoting housing for people with disabilities while the other half eliminates similar housing for people with disabilities and working poor families.
Specifically, the ordinance requires that in a neighborhood zoned for single family homes and duplexes a home can have only one lease. If a home has two or more leases, such as where two families are sharing or where a person with disabilities is living in shared housing, the ordinance would categorize the home as a “boarding house.” Under current law, boarding houses are prohibited in residential zones. Thus, by categorizing all homes with multiple leases as boarding houses, the ordinance would eliminate shared housing in these residential zones.
The elimination of shared housing in residential zones would fall most heavily on people with disabilities for whom shared housing provides the best and most prevalent opportunity to live independently. Over 250 units of government-subsidized shared housing for people with disabilities would be eliminated under this proposal. By requiring that they be on only one lease, the ordinance either eliminates the housing (federal programs require separate leases for shared housing), or requires everyone who is sharing to be on one lease. Putting everyone on one lease puts a family at the mercy of a total stranger --landlords could evict one tenant based on the behavior of the co-tenant.
The ordinance would also devastate working families. In Los Angeles, over 43,000 families share housing in single family homes. Families share to make housing more affordable, to live in safer neighborhoods and to allow their children to attend better schools. Much of that shared housing is in residential zones. The proposed ordinance would eliminate this shared housing or require that they share one lease, making them vulnerable to eviction.
The ordinance’s author, Councilmember Englander intends the ordinance to eliminate nuisances from certain group homes, however, rather than eliminating nuisances, it eliminates housing. Even where a group home is creating a nuisance, as long as the group home operator compels tenants to share one lease, it would not violate the ordinance. However, where a group was safe and well-managed and there is no nuisance, where there is more than one lease, it would be eliminated.
In addition to being bad policy, the ordinance would violate federal Fair Housing Administration Act and Rehabilitation Act, state fair housing law, zoning authority and the state’s constitutional right to privacy. It would also conflict with some federal housing subsidy requirements. All of this would mean the City could not satisfy the federal government’s requirements that it “affirmatively further fair housing.” As a result, the ordinance could compromise millions in federal funding for Los Angeles.
Rather than adopt a patently illegal ordinance that compromises desperately needed federal funding and that fails to deal with the nuisance problem it seeks to address, the City Council should pass only the Dr. Jekyl part of the ordinance that puts the City in conformance with state law and appoint a task force to target existing enforcement resources to regulate nuisance buildings. This will save money and solve the problem.
To voice your opposition to the Community Care Facilities Ordinance please contact your District Representative. For a list of Los Angeles Councilmembers click HERE
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