A proposed $1 billion housing bond, strongly supported by major business groups, will go before L.A. voters this fall.


The Los Angeles City Council last week voted to place Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's bond on the already crowded Nov. 7 ballot.


The bond would fund the addition of thousands of affordable housing units in the city. It comes at a time when the median home price in L.A. County has soared to $550,000 and when less than 15 percent of L.A. residents can afford to buy a median-priced home.


While the Central City Association pushed for this bond as a way to deal with growing numbers of homeless downtown, other business groups came on board because of the inadequate supply of affordable workforce housing in the L.A. area.


That lack of affordable housing has made recruiting employees much more difficult and also has forced employees into ever-longer commutes.


In particular, business groups strongly support a provision to steer $200 million of bond proceeds to first-time homebuyers.


Five years ago, business groups, including the Central City Association, proposed a $500 million affordable housing bond.


There was little progress until last year, when Villaraigosa proposed the $1 billion housing bond.


However, the bond faces a tough uphill battle in November. Not only does it require two-thirds voter approval, but it will be on a record-breaking ballot for bonds, with more than $40 billion in bonds facing voters statewide, including Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's $35 billion infrastructure bond package. In June, voters rejected a statewide library bond, leading many analysts to conclude voters were growing more wary of bonds.


Proponents of the affordable housing bond say that unlike what happened with the state library bond, they would mount a campaign to get L.A. voters to pass the measure, touting its benefits to the poor and middle class.


Specifically, the bond would earmark:


- $500 million for affordable rental housing for low-income individuals and households;


- $100 million for mixed-income developments with affordable housing units; and


- $200 million to help individuals and households buy their first homes, particularly teachers and firefighters.


The remaining $200 million would be allocated to other housing programs, which would have to be approved by a citizens' oversight committee, the City Council and the mayor.


Among the individuals targeted for these funds would be the homeless, those in danger of becoming homeless, domestic violence victims, seniors and the disabled.


The bond would be repaid through increased property taxes; according to city staff, it would add roughly $130 per year to the property tax on a home assessed at $500,000.


Also last week, the Council took a preliminary vote to hike trash fees paid by homeowners to pay for the hiring of more police officers. The fees would increase in stages from the current $11 per home to $28 by mid-2009. The vote was 12 to 1, with Councilman Greig Smith casting the lone dissenting vote.

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