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West Hollywood’s New Vision Could Spell Big Trouble for Affordable Housing and Rent Control

March 30, 2012

West Hollywood City Councilmember John D'Amico proposes to raid city's Affordable Housing Trust Fund to subsidize landlords.

West Hollywood’s newest Council Member John D’Amico has introduced a proposal that is shocking for a city built on rent control and that has had a firm commitment to affordable housing. D’Amico is proposing that the city’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund, which provides a resource to create desperately needed affordable housing, be raided to subsidize landlords to financially help them make repairs to their building. Now mind you, West Hollywood landlords are far from property owners in great financial need.

When D’Amico was running for office in 2011, which resulted in a surprising upset victory for him, he stated, “I have a different vision for West Hollywood.” Little did voters know at the time that his vision was to undermine the core principles in which this city was founded on and undo policies that have been overwhelmingly supported by the city, as well as by residents, of who more then 80% are tenants.

Maybe this should not be such a surprise given the fact that D’Amico got significant financial support for his election from the landlord group West Hollywood Concerned Citizens and the Greater Los Angeles Apartment Association.

The proposal D’Amico is advancing would direct the City Attorney to draft an amendment to the city’s Municipal Code to no longer mandate developers to provide onsite inclusionary affordable housing units in their new developments. All they would be required to do is pay an in-lieu fee instead. It also asks for an amendment to the Municipal Code to allow the city’s affordable housing funds to be used to assist landlords in upgrading their property and doing ‘green’ renovation.

CES Rally Launches West Hollywood Cityhood Campaign in 1984 held in Plummer Park

The Coalition for Economic Survival (CES) led the effort to incorporate the City of West Hollywood in 1984, mainly based on the goal of maintaining and strengthening rent control and preserving affordable housing.

Two years later, in 1986, CES was successful in advocating for the establishment of the West Hollywood Community Housing Corporation (WHCHC) to buy, build, rehabilitate, manage and advocate for affordable housing for lower-income people in West Hollywood. WHCHC, which is the main recipient of the Affordable Housing Trust Fund has since developed 13 apartment complexes in West Hollywood to serve seniors living on fixed-incomes, people living with disabilities including HIV/AIDS, and low-income working households.

This proposal could open the door to undermining these types of accomplishments in the present and future.

D’Amico’s proposal presents grave public policy consequences for West Hollywood, a city that has always stood for equality and justice. By letting developers off the hook and not requiring them to provide onsite inclusionsary affordable units it denies ensuring some level of income integration and the ability for low-income tenants to enjoy some of the same amenities afforded higher income people.

The D’Amico proposal will greatly speed up the gentrification already taking place in West Hollywood and smacks of the worst in NIMBYism (Not in My Back Yard). This is demonstrated by D’Amico’s statement that according to him West Hollywood residents are “tired of seeing us oversize their neighborhoods to build affordable units they’ll never get into.”

In addition, the proposal to subsidize landlords with Affordable Housing Trust Funds to fix up their buildings is appears to be illegal in that it would likely be seen as a gift of public funds.

Residents must make their voices heard and let the West Hollywood City Council know that they must stand up to this attack on affordable housing and must resoundingly reject the D’Amico proposal. The proposal will get its first discussion at the Monday night, April 2, West Hollywood City Council meeting.

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