The Affordability Agenda

It wasn’t too long ago that Dewitt Bass, Karen Bass’ father, was able to buy a home in Los Angeles with the paycheck he earned as a unionized Letter Carrier, and her mother, Wilhelmina, could choose to be a homemaker as they raised four children.

Today, however, too many Angelenos are being priced out of their hometown, and the greatest impacts are within communities of color.

Right now in L.A, the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment approaches $2,500 1, the median home purchase price is $800,000 2 and inflation is at a 40 year high 3. Three in four households report spending more than 30 percent of their income on rent and utilities 4, and too many Angelenos work two and three jobs just to stay afloat. 5

At the same time, the availability of good-paying middle class jobs continues to decline and wages for L.A.’s lowest-paid workers have dropped a full 25 percent since 1979 6. Furthermore, a lack of access to reliable transportation options prevents thousands of Angelenos from getting to and from a job in the first place.

That’s why Karen Bass has a plan to make it more affordable to live in and move around Los Angeles and to create good-paying jobs.

Affordable Housing for All

There is virtually no neighborhood in Los Angeles where a minimum wage worker with two to three full-time jobs can afford a decent, two-bedroom apartment, and the median price to buy a home in L.A. is nearly $800,000. That is untenable.

Evictions and the chronic lack of affordable housing are major drivers of homelessness and pervasive inequality. 7 In fact, more than 50% of people who enter homelessness for the first time cite economic hardship as the biggest reason they lost their home. 8

Until we make housing affordable in Los Angeles, the crisis on our streets will only get worse — and our children will continue to wonder whether they can afford to raise their own families in L.A.

It’s time for a big change. If we are serious about addressing the affordable housing crisis, we need to dramatically expedite the production of housing – especially affordable housing – protect our existing housing stock, and prevent renters from losing their homes. As Mayor, Bass will:

1. Protect Renters from Eviction and Protect Mom and Pop Landlords

Let’s be real – eviction is a common way people become homeless. 9

Bass will protect tenants against unlawful evictions, provide legal assistance to renters and ensure robust code enforcement to maintain the health and safety of affordable housing, cracking down on landlords who intentionally allow their properties to deteriorate.

Bass also understands that the pandemic exacerbated the unique challenges that mom and pop landlords face, disproportionately impacting small rental property owners of color. 10 It’s important that we preserve Los Angeles’ family-owned rental stock, which is critical to preserving our housing supply. That’s why Bass will safeguard mom and pop owners’ investments by ensuring they receive the financial support they need to stay afloat and continue to house Angelenos.

2. Create a Preservation Fund to Ensure Affordability for Decades

One of the city’s most effective strategies to create affordable housing is by securing commitments from residential developers to keep their properties affordable for decades at a time. Over the next decade, thousands of affordable units are at risk of being lost when these agreements expire. 11

Bass will work to ensure that housing receiving public subsidies stay affordable for longer periods of time – and she will set aside the payments these building owners make to the city and put those dollars into a Preservation Fund to purchase apartments with expiring affordability commitments.

3. Streamline Approval of 100% Affordable Housing and Permanent Supportive Housing for Immediate Development

We don’t have time to waste on bureaucracy. As Mayor, Bass will create policies to expedite permanent supportive housing and 100% affordable housing projects for immediate development. These policies will get projects built faster – and people in homes more quickly.

4. Create an Affordable Housing Strike Team to Expedite Projects

Even after a project is approved for development, it gets dragged through a maze of city departments for additional clearances and approvals.12 Affordable housing projects shouldn’t just cut to the front of the line – they need their own line. Bass will create a new Affordable Housing Strike Team that has only one job: approve and expedite affordable housing projects as quickly as possible. This team will include the heads of every department that touches housing and they will be held directly accountable by the Mayor.

A Free and Reliable Transportation System for All

It shouldn’t be hard to get around Los Angeles safely, comfortably, and affordably. While our city is still synonymous with traffic, we also know that nearly a million Angelenos use rail and transit every day. Yet our public transit system does not go everywhere – yet.

No one should be denied access to employment, education or recreation simply because they don’t have a car. Angelenos shouldn’t lose hours of their days – or worse, years of their lives –sitting in traffic, choked by toxic air – or at a higher risk of dying while walking or biking – because they live in a certain zip code. As Mayor, Bass will:

1. Make Transit Fast and Free

As Mayor, Karen Bass will deliver a free, reliable, quick, and efficient public transportation system that connects every neighborhood in Los Angeles. She will also make sure that no Angeleno ever has to pay to ride a bus or Metro train again – saving working families thousands of dollars every year. 13

2. Make it Cheaper to Buy an Electric Vehicle

Transportation is an affordability issue because you can’t get to work without a set of wheels – and lately, filling up your gas tank is enough to break the bank. As Mayor, Bass will lower the cost of electric vehicles – including e-bikes – for working Angelenos by advocating for state and federal relief, and partnering with the private sector and philanthropy to offer rebates to drivers.

Electric transportation means more access to affordable travel, cleaner air and creating good – paying jobs. As Mayor, Bass will invest in citywide electric vehicle charging infrastructure to increase access to charging stations, create good-paying jobs installing and maintaining EV charging stations, and ensure that small and minority-owned businesses can participate in the rapid growth of the charging network.

3. Provide Angelenos With Choices to Get Around

Transportation can often be among the largest expenses for a household. 14 And yet, it is transportation that connects people to the jobs and academic opportunities that can lift families out of poverty. As Mayor, Bass will expand and expedite the delivery of transportation options so that people can choose the best – and most affordable – way to get around.

Neighborhood-based, people-first initiatives help families save money, green our environment, and grow our economy. By leveraging state and local funding, Bass will provide stipends to low-income families to choose their preferred mode of transportation, offer access to shared electric vehicles and e-bikes, improve infrastructure and create jobs.

Good-Paying Jobs for All

The staggering cost of living in Los Angeles is unacceptable. Wages have not kept pace with the sky-high cost of housing, resulting in tens of thousands of Angelenos sleeping in cars or on the streets. Not to mention the added costs of utilities, transportation, child care and other necessary expenses.

It doesn’t have to be this way. L.A. is a city of limitless potential – and should be a city where every Angeleno can get by with access to one good-paying job, not three.

Karen Bass has a robust jobs plan that creates economic opportunity for all communities and addresses some of L.A.’s most intractable problems like homelessness, public safety and a worsening climate. As Mayor, Bass will:

1. Leverage our Climate Crisis with Job Opportunities

Spending on clean investments and sustainable infrastructure creates nearly three times more jobs per dollar than other infrastructure investments. But women and people of color are underrepresented in these jobs, and wage disparities have led to persistent workforce inequities – making affordability a real issue. 15

Bass will create a Climate Jobs Accelerator to rapidly expand good-paying jobs in climate-critical industries, especially those that have been historically low-wage such as residential energy efficiency, rooftop solar, fire prevention, trucking, and waste.16 The Accelerator will be anchored by deep partnerships with labor, community-based organizations, workers, and educational institutions to support a comprehensive, regional approach to workforce development that touches every sector of the clean economy.

Unprecedented climate investments will be available through the Inflation Reduction Act and other federal and state legislation. As Mayor, Bass will secure and leverage these dollars in underserved areas, scaling the innovation already underway at places like the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator so that more Angelenos have access to lucrative career opportunities that address our climate crisis.

2. Train Angelenos for Quality Jobs Across Industries and Combat Discrimination in Hiring

Let’s be honest: high wage industries are based on talent. As Mayor, Bass will strengthen our workforce development system and leverage L.A.’s homegrown talent to create diverse pipelines to high wage jobs. She will enhance support for programs designed to target the unemployed, underemployed, and those who face additional barriers to employment.

L.A.’s greatest asset is its human capital but too often, industry leaders are forced to import talent from outside Los Angeles. With so much untapped talent here at home, Bass will partner with industries to create career pipelines, funneling talented Angelenos to high wage jobs in emerging and mature industries.

Bass will build partnerships with L.A.’s public schools to help young people access the kind of social capital and professional network that facilitate professional growth, and she will secure commitments from private sector leaders to hire L.A.-grown talent, linking our young people and college graduates to local jobs. She will focus particular attention on connecting L.A.’s fastest-growing and legacy industries to youth, especially from neighborhoods with high unemployment.

Bass has been a leader in expanding access to opportunity and fighting against discriminatory hiring practices targeting those seeking to reenter society, or simply because of who they are. As Mayor, Bass will continue to strike barriers to employment and she will partner with the City Attorney to hold bad actors accountable for abusive practices and enforce fair workplace laws.

3. Grow Small Businesses to Hire More Angelenos

Our economy was ravaged during the pandemic – businesses continue to struggle, and many have been forced to change their operations or shut their doors completely during the COVID crisis. 17 Small businesses are the backbone of our economy, accounting for nearly half the jobs in our city. Their recovery is essential to our economic strength.

Bass will create a Small Business Team in the Mayor’s Office to advocate for entrepreneurs and provide technical assistance. She will convene the city’s banks and financial institutions to launch a multi-million dollar fund, providing the access to capital needed to grow and hire more Angelenos.

Bass will institute a tax holiday for new businesses in L.A., which is a powerful tool to help small businesses launch, giving entrepreneurs the time they need to get on their feet. And she will make it easier for small and minority-owned businesses to do business with the city, expanding procurement and contracting opportunities.