Good afternoon, Councilmembers. I am Dr. Charlotte Laws, member of the Greater Valley Glen Council. I have been a Los Angeles real estate agent for the past 19 years.

You should reconsider putting time and resources into “buying programs” associated with density bonuses, inclusionary zoning or below market rate housing. These programs are detrimental for many buyers they purport to help. In fact, an LA City Planner told me on the phone recently, “Density bonus programs are not for those who want to build wealth.”

Three months ago, I came across a condominium complex in Woodland Hills, which was selling below market rate units to those with moderate income. The condos were offered for $200,000 while the market rate units in the complex were selling for $400,000.  

My first thought was… maybe I should get my 19-year old daughter into one of these units. But that thought quickly vanished when I learned more about the program. I was told it was a density bonus program and that after my daughter bought the place, she would need to hold it for 10 years in order to get all the equity out. If she were to upgrade, it would be questionable whether she could recoup her costs. If she moved, she would have to transfer the unit and the profit to another buyer.

The more I learned, the more I knew I did not want any member of my family to participate in one of these programs. I want my daughter to become financially stable, even wealthy, not trapped in a property prison for years unable to build equity like a market-rate buyer. I know these paternalistic, density bonus programs can vary; in fact, some impose 45-year restrictions.

These programs require fully qualifying loans. Probably 90% of the buyers who work with Realtors I know obtain “no qualifying” loans. Last week I talked to a lender who told me that my daughter would have difficulty qualifying for the $200,000 condo. Yet he said she could buy up to $550,000 with a no qualifying loan. Many people have a false perception about their ability to buy and housing affordability.

I encourage you to ask Realtor boards, Realtors and lenders to come together, to form an advisory panel and to develop solutions for potential buyers. Some ideas include creative financing, buying partnerships, soft seconds, credit repair programs. New buyers can rent out a room or guest house to help cover costs.

Mayor Villaraigosa says only 12% of Angelenos can afford to buy. I respectfully disagree. My clients are police officers, teachers, construction workers, and they buy market-rate property all day long without a problem.

I have never personally qualified for any house I have ever bought. I bought a house four months ago. It is rented to a tenant for no money out of my pocket each month. Any middle-income person could have done what I did.

In Los Angeles, according to CRA, shockingly a family can earn $97,000 a year and qualify for one of these programs. In Marin County, it is $126,000. In Atherton California, it is $240,000. 

In closing, I want to mention… there are quality of life and density-related issues that I am not addressing today, but they are very real concerns for the stakeholders in my community. Los Angeles is the densest city with over 7000 people per square mile.

I understand Los Angeles must comply with SB 1818. But I encourage you not to make rash decisions, to explore all options and consult with experts. Thank you for your time.