2022 Grants Challenge

Public Lands for Affordable Homes

The City of Los Angeles’ Housing Element now includes non-binding commitments to create 10,000 affordable housing units on public land. The ACT-LA coalition will put policy together with resources to create 2-3 pilots of this model of using public land for public good by organizing Los Angeles residents around this model and winning control of public lands. This work will help the City see a viable path forward for how to meet its commitment to affordable housing based in community input.


Please list the organizations collaborating on this proposal.

Strategic Actions for a Just Economy (SAJE)

What is the primary issue area that your application will impact?

Housing and Homelessness

In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

South LA

City of Los Angeles

In what stage of innovation is this project, program, or initiative?

Applying a proven model or solution to a new issue or sector (e.g., using a job recruiting software or strategy to match clients to supportive housing sites, applying demonstrated strategies from advocating for college affordability to advocating for housing affordability and homelessness, etc.)

What is your understanding of the issue that you are seeking to address?

The housing affordability crisis in California has upended and destabilized many low-income LA communities. Low income communities, predominantly Latinx and Black after years of segregation and redlining, have been especially hard hit by the housing crisis. Between 2001 and 2019, Los Angeles lost over 26,500 rent stabilized units through Ellis Act evictions. In 2019, the population of homeless individuals in the City of Los Angeles increased by 16% from the previous year. Tenant harassment and/or lack of building maintenance in communities of color is constant in order to push out tenants and garner higher rents for buildings. In neighborhoods where new housing is being built, market rate housing is now so expensive that many current residents of LA cannot afford it. In order to address housing affordability and homelessness in LA, we must advance policies that increase production of affordable housing, preserve existing low-cost housing, and enact strong protections for tenants.

Describe the project, program, or initiative this grant will support to address the issue.

ACT-LA and its coalition partners have been advocating for solutions to the housing affordability crisis through the Housing Element of the General Plan, also called "the Plan to House LA," which identifies Los Angeles's housing needs and opportunities and establishes clear goals and objectives to inform future housing decisions. Due in part to the work of ACT-LA and its coalition partners, the recently adopted (May 2022) Housing Element includes a non-binding commitment by the City of Los Angeles to create 10,000 units of affordable housing on public land. While this goal is a “on-paper” victory for communities, it does not have an enforcement nor accountability mechanism. For affordable housing to be built, communities need to continue to actively advocate for their needs and interests. One of the biggest obstacles to affordable housing development is the cost of land. Fortunately, Los Angeles has access to existing public lands which can be activated for the purpose of creating new affordable housing. ACT-LA and its coalition partners propose to continue to engage the City in following through with plans to implement the Housing Element by educating and organizing Los Angeles residents on the existence of these public lands and how they could be used to create permanently affordable housing. We will assemble the necessary coalitions and teams to bring this aspect of the Housing Element into fruition.

Describe how Los Angeles County will be different if your work is successful.

If successful, we will have created a strong, organized coalition of affordable developers, tenant groups, and residents that can work with the City to reach its commitment of 10,000 new units of permanently affordable housing, and Los Angeles will have a model for how communities can use public lands for public good and create more affordable housing in places where access to land is at a premium. Our intention is to use the collective voice of organized constituencies and the institutions of democratic government to create the public goods we need, especially in housing where the market has failed. This grant will allow us to activate bilingual community engagement specialists from affected neighborhoods to educate residents about how to leverage public lands in a cost effective and efficient way. Resident engagement will shape the kind of city we want to live in and use the government resources available to make sure that they are used effectively for the public good.

What evidence do you have that this project, program, or initiative is or will be successful, and how will you define and measure success?

ACT-LA and its coalition partners were successful in educating the City on the importance of committing to building affordable housing units on public land, as evidenced by its inclusion in the Housing Element. We are also leading the United to House LA initiative which promises to generate approximately $875 million to raise the necessary public dollars to finance the 10,000 units. This effort will build off of these important initiatives by educating and organizing residents to encourage the City to identify public lands that can be used to meet the commitment of 10,000 units. The impact of this implementation phase of the campaign can be measured by the number of residents reached, the number of organizations involved, the number of lots identified, and the number of lots activated, to name a few sample metrics. We can commit to securing 2-3 public land plots in the next 1-2 years, as well as building a model and pipeline for further construction as evidence of our success.

Approximately how many people will be impacted by this project, program, or initiative?

Direct Impact: 240

Indirect Impact: 9,900

Describe the specific role of the partner organization(s) in the project, program, or initiative.

ACT-LA is a staffed coalition where member organizations lead the policy development and contribute outreach capacity and in-depth knowledge of neighborhoods with a pronounced need for affordable housing. Based in two rapidly gentrifying areas, SAJE is an ACT-LA lead organization that has a strong, grassroots base in South Los Angeles. SAJE’s and one-to-two other lead organizations will activate local residents, alert them to options for reaching the affordable housing goals in the Housing Element, and help residents design plans that work for them. ACT-LA will coordite and work with organizations in other areas of the city to pursue similar work. Together, we will activate the community input needed to actualize Los Angeles’ plans to produce affordable housing.