ACCESSORY DWELLING UNIT: Also known as ADUs, granny flats, or casitas, accessory dwelling units are units added onto a primary home where an additional person or family could live. In Culver City one ADU (up to 1,200 square feet for a two or more-bedroom unit) and one junior ADU (850 square feet for a one-bedroom unit) is legal per residentially zoned property.
AFFORDABLE HOUSING: This term can be used in two ways; housing that is considered affordable (if the household pays 30% or less of their gross income (before taxes are taken out) towards rent or mortgage payments) or deed-restricted, government-funded housing restricted to households below a certain income level. When “affordable housing” is used when discussing a specific development or policy, it typically refers specifically to the restricted and government-funded housing. A household is considered "low-income" if it makes less than 80 percent of the median income in the local area (this is called Area Median Income, or AMI). The term is commonly used to refer to homes affordable to people with low, very low and extremely low income, seniors on fixed incomes, veterans, and people with disabilities. Affordable housing can be funded in a variety of ways; local and state construction funding, federal tax credits, and housing assistance programs. There are different types of housing assistance programs including public housing and Housing Choice Voucher which authorize the payment of rental housing assistance to private landlords on behalf of low-income households in the United States. Deed restricted affordable housing is when conditions are placed on a deed to a property setting out certain limits or acceptable uses. The conditions, also known as covenants, “run with the land” and as a result bind current and future homeowners. Deed restrictions help to safeguard the long-term value to the community of the initial investment in affordable homeownership by limiting any subsequent sales of the home to income-eligible borrowers at an affordable price.
AREA MEDIAN INCOME (AMI): Is the median income of all households in a given county, city or metropolitan region. In other words, if you lined up all the incomes of residents in a row, this one is the midpoint, and it’s used to determine who qualifies for certain subsidized affordable housing options like public housing and the Housing Choice Voucher program. Typically, these qualifications are expressed as a percentage of AMI. For instance, you might hear about a new apartment going up in your neighborhood that has a portion of units set aside for affordable "below market rate" housing, and those units will be listed as available to anyone whose household income is 80% of AMI. The AMI is determined by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) on an annual basis. One criticism that has been raised about AMI is that it does not take into account the sometimes massive variances in cost between different zip codes and even neighborhoods in a given region. For instance, the area median income in Los Angeles County is $77,300 per year for a family of four. However, the median income in some zip codes may be in the low $20,000. The AMI pegged Countywide is problematic because the cost of housing and incomes vary widely in this large region. This can seriously skew the data and often means that poor residents are only able to live in poor neighborhoods, even when they have a housing voucher. See: https://www.hcd.ca.gov/grants-and-funding/income-limits
COMMUNITY LAND TRUST: A community land trust (CLT) is a nonprofit organization that relies on grants, donations, and public land acquisition programs for operating expenses and for acquiring land, properties and easements. A CTL board commonly contains representation from the landowner, wider community, and the owners/lessor/users of the property. CLTs balance the needs of individuals who want security of tenure in occupying and using land and housing, with the needs of the surrounding community, striving to secure a variety of social purposes such as maintaining the affordability of local housing, preventing the displacement of vulnerable residents, and promoting economic and racial inclusion. Across the world, there is enormous diversity among CLTs in the ways that real property is owned, used, and operated and the ways that the CLT itself is guided and governed by people living on and around a CLT’s land. “In lieu” fees collected from developers could go to help fund a Community Land Trust. (Each city decides how the in lieu fees are to be used; funding a CLT is one option.) CLTs are relatively rare in the United States. The CLT model can lower the cost of housing by allowing people to purchase only their house, not the land it sits on. The land, which is supplied by the government, is owned by a nonprofit.
DENSITY: The level of concentration (high or low) of buildings, including their total volume, within a given area. Often expressed as a ratio, i.e. homes per acre. Areas zoned R1 or zoned for single-family dwellings are considered to be the lowest residential density. It is difficult to discuss density without discussing housing inequalities based on race and redlining. That is because the legacy of exclusionary zoning, which bans the building of anything other than single family homes, has prevented building more dense housing stock such as duplexes, triplexes and multiplexes.
DENSITY BONUS: A percentage increase in the number of homes authorized for a particular parcel of land beyond the maximum allowed by local zoning ordinances, a density bonus is used to incentivize developers to include affordable homes. In California, the State Density Bonus Law (Gov. Code 65915), enacted in 1979, requires cities and counties to offer density bonuses, incentives and waivers to housing developments that include a certain percentage of homes affordable to low- or very low-income households.
EXCLUSIONARY ZONING: Exclusionary zoning is an often mentioned policy that keeps affordable housing out of neighborhoods through land use and building code requirements. It’s a legal practice that has been used for decades to keep lower-income people—disproportionately people who are members of racial minorities—out of wealthy and middle-class neighborhoods across the country. This causes segregation and has a damaging effect, in that it prevents these low-income families from having access to the education and employment opportunities typically found in wealthier neighborhoods. In Culver City, 36% of the total existing land use consists of single family zoning. The next four residential land uses (1) duplex, triplex, fourplex (2) multifamily residential (3) mobile home parks and (4) mixed use, when combined, amounts to only 15% for the rest of residential uses.
Because racial and income segregation are both incredibly common, many believe that these divisions are primarily due to a combination of personal choices and free-market patterns. However, the truth is far more complicated—and nefarious—than that. AsRichard Rothstein explains in his book,The Color of Law, residential areas began to deliberately segregate by race in the early twentieth century, largely by prohibiting Black people from buying homes in majority white areas. Although the U.S. Supreme Court struck down these explicit practices in 1917, communities quickly found more many other ways to keep discrimination alive.
This led to the advent of economic zoning policies. In 1916, just eight U.S. cities had zoning ordinances; by 1936, that number had grown to 1,246. Some of these policies, known as “exclusionary zoning,” require that neighborhoods consist exclusively of single-family homes, or that homes in some areas had minimum lot sizes or minimum square footage requirements. The Supreme Court upheld these policies in 1926, finding that excluding apartments and multi family homes from entire neighborhoods was not just permissible, but could potentially prevent the “degradation” of an area.
Today, exclusionary zoning is largely still in place. In fact, this discriminatory practice is as much an issue in liberal U.S. states, as it is in their less progressive neighbors. In order to continue to exclude middle- and upper-class people of color and of lower income backgrounds from white neighborhoods, public and private interests tend to retain exclusionary zoning in the name of maintaining “neighborhood character.”
HOUSING CHOICE VOUCHERS: The Housing Choice Voucher program (formerly called Section 8) is the federal government's major program for assisting very low-income families, elderly, and disabled people, so they can afford decent, safe housing in the private market. It is a form of subsidized affordable housing in which families who qualify may be provided with government funding to pay a portion of their rent in standard, market-rate housing. It is overseen by local Public Housing Authorities, although the money comes from the federal government. For those who gain a voucher, the subsidy remains with them even if they move, as long as they continue to meet the income and other requirements. Waitlists for this program tend to be extremely long; many, so long that they aren’t open to any new applicants.
HOUSING ELEMENT: A required element of all California city general plans, housing elements identify and analyze housing needs and include goals, objectives, policies and programs for providing a city’s fair share of affordable housing needs. Although state law mandates that jurisdictions rezone enough land to meet their regional housing needs allocation and each jurisdiction is required to have an approved housing element, jurisdictions retain local land use control. Cities are required to update their Housing Elements every eight years. See Culver City's approved 2021 - 2029 Housing Element and information about the update process here: https://www.pictureculvercity.com/housing-element/#updatetimeline
INCLUSIONARY ZONING: A requirement that developers of new housing include a certain percentage of below market-rate homes. Inclusionary Zoning is a local law and each city that passes this law decides how many units must be affordable, and what price is considered affordable. Often developers can pay the city an “in-lieu fee” instead of including affordable units, which allows the city to use the money to build new affordable homes, or fund a Community Land Trust.
MARKET RATE HOUSING: Housing built by for-profit developers with private capital. This housing stock rents or sells at what price the local market is willing to pay.
MISSING MIDDLE HOUSING: Missing middle refers to housing that accommodates more people than a single family home but does not come in the form of a large apartment building. Typically it refers to housing types that fall somewhere in between a single-family home and mid-rise apartment buildings – such as townhomes, duplexes, triplexes, and courtyard clusters. Missing middle housing can help localities increase the availability of less expensive housing types and support vibrant, walkable neighborhoods, while gently increasing density. These housing types are an important component of a diverse housing stock, contributing to more inclusive neighborhoods. Among other benefits, they can be used to expand the diversity and affordability of housing in neighborhoods dominated by single-family homes.It’s called "missing" middle because many communities do not have very much of this sort of mid-sized housing due to exclusionary zoning laws.
MIXED-USE DEVELOPMENT: A building or group of buildings that combines multiple revenue producing uses in an integrated and coherent plan. As an example, a mixed-use development might include retail space on the ground floor, offices on the middle floor, condominiums or apartments on the top floors and a garage on the lower level.
NIMBY: NIMBY stands for Not In My Backyard. People and communities who oppose low income homes, trains through their community, or any development for that matter, are commonly referred to as NIMBYs. The term is typically employed pejoratively by advocates who favor a given change and use the word to call out residents who may be hindering the preferred development.
OVERCROWDING: Overcrowding is defined as more than one person per room, including the living room and dining room, but excluding the kitchen and bathroom. Overcrowding occurs when some households cannot accommodate high-cost burdens and instead accept smaller housing or share housing with other individuals or families. 5.3% of all Culver City households lived in overcrowded conditions with renter households making up 72% of overcrowded households.
PARKING MINIMUMS AND MAXIMUMS: The purpose of parking minimums is to insure sufficient off street parking spaces available based on a building purpose and size.
Local governments set parking minimums in their development regulations for various types of uses. Increasingly, local governments recognize the need to limit parking for a variety of reasons and therefore establish parking maximums in their regulations, establishing a limit for the number of spaces allowed for a specific use. Requiring parking minimums drives the cost of development higher and provides space for cars that could possibly be used for other purposes including housing. Higher development cost means higher housing prices if developers are required to provide parking. As more people understand the intersectionality between housing needs and mobility needs, advocates are pressuring for resources to support additional transit options near housing thereby shifting space and dollars from parking to housing.
PRODUCTION, PRESERVATION, AND PROTECTION (THREE Ps OF HOUSING): The solutions housing problems are many, but they involve three high-level actions known as the three “Ps” of Housing Production, Preservation, and (Tenant) Protections.
REDLINING: Redlining is the practice of refusing to provide financial services and other services to consumers based on the area where they live. In Richard Rothstein's book, The Color of Law, he examines the local, state and federal housing policies mandated segregation. He notes that the Federal Housing Administration, which was established in 1934, furthered the segregation efforts by refusing to insure mortgages in and near African-American neighborhoods — a policy known as "redlining." “Racial segregation does not just happen; it is made.” Public policies across a wide spectrum―including discriminatory zoning, taxation, subsidies, and explicit redlining―have shaped the racial fracturing of America.
REGIONAL HOUSING NEEDS ASSESSMENT (RHNA): Pronounced “reena”. Southern California Association of Governments’ (SCAG) assessment that produces regional, sub-regional and local targets for the amount and type of homes needed over an eight year period, based on new growth. RHNA takes into account anticipated housing demand generated by employment growth and population increase. California’s Department of Housing and Community Development approved the RHNA allocation plan on March 22, 2021 and Culver City’s housing allocation is 3,341, of which 1,712 must be affordable to low or very low-income households. See: SCAG RHNA
TRANSIT-ORIENTED DEVELOPMENT (TOD): Development of housing and mixed-use development close to public transit such as Metro E-Line, frequent bus lines, etc. TOD is usually within 1/4 to 1/2 mile of a transit station or major bus line. Culver City engaged in a robust public process to develop a plan surrounding the E-Line, including Rancho Higuera and the Arts District.
The 8 Principles of the TOD standard for designing better streets and better cities:
UPZONING: Upzoning lifts common restrictions that reserve too much of our cities’ land exclusively for only one home per lot. Culver City could decide to allow two, three, or more units per lot that are currently zoned R-1. Upzoning protects mixed-income neighborhoods from becoming exclusive enclaves of big, expensive, single family houses. Upzoning helps keep prices down and ensures more modest, affordable choices are available in more neighborhoods, including rental choices.
VACANCY TAX: A vacancy tax provides a financial disincentive for landlords and property owners to keep units vacant. Revenue received through this tax can go toward rental assistance, legal services for tenants and tenant outreach.
YIMBY: YIMBY stands for Yes In My Backyard. The YIMBY movement began a few years ago with residents in expensive American cities like San Francisco and New York organizing to advocate for more housing to be built, especially by lifting regulations that currently hinder residential development.
Special thanks to Mary Daval, for compiling this list of terms and definitions.