LA ADUs, DENSITY &
SECTION 8 TENANTS
An Interview with
Housing Authority of the
City of Los Angeles
Jenny Scanlin is Chief Strategic Development Oﬃcer for the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles. She has worked more than two decades in the public sector specializing in solving housing and economic deficiencies in low-income neighbor- hoods. During her tenure she has managed complicated real estate and development transactions, conceived and invested in award-winning projects and created strong stakeholder and strategic relationships to further the City’s development goals.
WHAT IS THE GREATEST CHALLENGE FACING HOUSING IN THE CITY?
The greatest challenge is the history of how LA was built. We’re challenged by the fact that LA was built as a car culture, and everything was downzoned, and a culture of large homes, big backyards and lots of RR2 zoning for single-family homes. The urban environment has been built out of that zoning.
Finding appropriate locations where we can incorporate density at diﬀerent levels has been diﬃcult. We are still trying to ﬁgure out how to address the jobs/housing balance. HACLA is doing our best, and I know the City is addressing it too: we see the City Planning Department has been working diligently on CODs and density as well.
Density is a solution area we are focused on and it’s important for us that instead of just speaking to the balance we create it. The Housing Authority can do that as well, but at HAC- LA we have a luxury in coming at the issue from public beneﬁts perspective.
WHAT IS KEY TO INCREASING DENSITY?
The jobs/housing balance is important. I see lots of hous- ing opportunity but what we may ﬁnd in the long view is we can create lots of opportunity for density of housing but lose precious space for jobs. Aﬀordability is key and we have to look at both sides.
Even if we densify and create more units and bring potential rents down or stabilize them, many lower income families who are looking for work can’t ﬁnd it in those areas. The best approach to development is to both provide and ensure land for both jobs and housing.
Our principles are when we’re doing large scale redevelopment, we are not just building housing units but creating job centers and including amenities. How people are choosing to work is changing, so we don’t need the same infrastructure as before, but for lower income tenants their jobs are largely still institutional and have to be available or else it’s just contributing to more of the LA commute and that creates so many problems.
HOW IS HACLA SUPPORTING THE EXPANSION OF THE ADU MARKET?
We are asking “Who are the new landlords?” and think- ing of many new ones coming with one or two units so there has to be some reduced level of paperwork. As that continues to grow, we want them to be our audience as we encourage them to house a wide range of tenants.
Technology is one solution we are using to help make new and experienced landlords more comfortable working with the government and working with HUD. We are looking at ways to make it easier for them and teaching people how to be better landlords by demystifying the process like holding community classes where we meet with landlords as a support system providing training and information about local policy and tenant, zoning and property management issues.
SHOULD CITY DO MORE TO EXPEDITE ADU CONSTRUCTION?
We have to recognize there is a balance between wanting many more ADU units and where building and safety stands on the permitting. It’s hard because from policy-maker standpoint, the City wants to support growth but still has public safety standards to meet especially in highly density, high ﬁre and earthquake prone area like ours.
WHY ARE HACLA CONSTITUENTS GOOD ADU TENANTS?
Section 8 voucher holders are a totally diverse mix of people from seniors and young families to many military veterans and people with disabilities. They are perfect ADU tenants and we are working with landlords to help them ease concerns in their minds and especially making it easy for those working with our system for the ﬁrst time. ADUs are a great option for Section 8 project-based holders in a tight rental market like this.
Increasing the number of landlords in our program is important and having housing stock for lower-income families out- side of our existing stock is vital because often voucher holders have to return the vouchers because landlords are not comfortable accepting them as reliable tenants. The growth of the private ADU market will help landlords become more Section 8 friendly and we have training to help them be good tenants.
Not everyone can be Section 8 friendly of course so we want to ease barriers and help even the playing ﬁeld. If you want to serve the community and allow your housing to be available to all income levels, we want to know what we can do to make that work for you.
WHAT IS HACLA’S MESSAGE TO THE ADU BUILDERS AND LANDLORDS?
We are working to get private landlords to be more open to the conversation, to work with us to ﬁnd a place for more Sec- tion 8 voucher holders because there is no question, they can be more grateful than others to have that roof over their head.