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Los Angeles Measure JJJ "Build Better L.A."

Los Angeles Arts District Construction 2014 | photo Patrick Pelletier
Los Angeles Arts District Construction 2014 | photo Patrick Pelletier

What is Measure  JJJ all about?

It’s about trying to ease the city’s affordable housing crisis and providing good-paying jobs for construction workers and apprentices.  

How would it create more affordable housing?

Measure JJJ would require developers who are building ten or more units to set some of them aside for low-income tenants or buyers.  How and when they would have to do this is very technical and complicated. This is a simple explanation.

How would Measure JJJ work?

Imagine you’re a developer. You want to build new housing that is more than ten units. But your plans call for a taller building or greater density than local plans allow. Before you can get those changes approved you would have to agree to:

  1. Set aside housing units for low-income folks. (Between 5% and 40% depending on various factors and situations.)
  2. Agree to hire local union workers and people in union training programs. (This is part of the reason the County Federation of Labor is behind the measure.)
  3. If you can’t do either of those, you can pay a fee to a housing trust that provides affordable housing for low-income residents.

If you, the developer, agree to this, then your zoning change request will be considered. If not, forget about it.

On top of these rules, Measure JJJ would impact development near major transit hubs, like metro stops. It would require that any development in these areas also set aside a certain portion of the units for low-income households.  The idea here is to slow down gentrification around transit hubs, so people who use and need public transportation will have access to it.

How about the wage requirements?

Measure JJJ would require developers to pay a prevailing wage and hire licensed union workers and people being trained as apprentices. It lays out specific percentages: 30% of those hired would have to live in the city of Los Angeles. 10% would have to live close to the project and be in training programs that employ the homeless, vets, single parents and other workers “in transition.”.  

How many affordable units would be built?

Hard to say. It depends. The bigger the zoning change the more units have to be made affordable. A major change would require the developer to set aside 20% of the units as affordable. Smaller changes would require as only 5% of the units be affordable.

Poverty levels also play a part. If a developer offers housing to really poor families, then fewer units have to be affordable. If a developer offers house to moderately low-income folks then more units have to be affordable.

This along with the impact of the wage requirement makes it hard to predict exactly how much affordable housing would be created.

What are the arguments for Measure JJJ?

The L.A. Federation of Labor (a coalition of labor unions) and The Campaign for Better LA  are for the measure. They say:

  • LA has the least affordable rental market and the highest portion of renters in the country. A person would have to earn $30 an hour to afford the average apartment.
  • Most of the housing built recently has been for the affluent. There is not nearly enough housing being built for lower-income families.
  • Public funds to build affordable housing have shrunk dramatically.
  • Measure JJJ would help relieve this housing crisis by creating incentives for affordable housing.
  • Measure JJJ would also provide incentives for developers to pay good wages to local workers and support job training programs for vets. These workers would in  turn be able to afford better housing.  

What are the arguments against Measure JJJ?

The Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce and the Los Angeles Times editorial board are against Measure JJJ. They say:

  • Measure JJJ could make the housing crisis worse.
  • The wage requirements will increase construction costs and discourage developers from building housing.
  • The proposals are among the “nation’s most demanding affordable housing and wage mandates on privately-funded development.” – LA Times
  • There is no analysis to show that Measure JJJ would actually result in more housing.
  • Two other smarter approaches to encourage the construction of affordable housing are being developed. One by Mayor Eric Garcetti. Another by City Councilman Mitch O’Farrell.

What does a “yes” or “no” vote mean?

A “yes” vote means Measure JJJ will go into effect in the city of Los Angeles

A “no” vote means Measure JJJ will not take effect.

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