Beverly Hills Affordable Housing Eligibility: What You Need to Know

City of Beverly Hills has guidelines for prioritizing the eligibility of applicants for affordable housing: seniors get first shot then families with children, etc. The guidelines have been on the books for years. But only recently has there been an opportunity to use them as a few new deed-restricted affordable units became available. Looking ahead to the decade ahead, more affordable units will come online so we thought it helpful to describe the process of qualifying with a focus on the guidelines that help to determine eligibility.

No Such Thing as a Free Lunch!

Pursuant to city law a housing developer must set aside some small proportion of the project (10%) as housing that is ‘affordable’ to very-low-income, low-income or moderate-income households according to county income thresholds. But there is no free lunch: the developer benefits from incentives such as additional residential density (to increase the unit count), additional height or reduced unit sizes, for example, to pay for the affordable unit(s) which will rent below market for at least 55 years.

227 South Tower Drive rendering“These development incentives are intended to result in cost reductions of the project to be able to provide for affordable housing costs or rents,” said the staff report for the recently-approved project at 227 South Tower Drive (right). In fact that project is perfectly representative of the bargain we strike for affordable housing.

Without incentives the developer could have constructed a 4-story 8-unit building under the city’s zoning code – plenty tall for the 2-story surrounding area. But by providing the city-required minimum of only one affordable unit the developer was approved for a fifth story including two additional units (plus waivers from various other costly requirements).

This is the future for Beverly Hills. Recently approved projects at 149–159 South Maple, 332 South Doheny and another in the pipeline at 232 South Doheny all exceed the city’s residential density and height limits in exchange for one or more affordable units. We will see many more projects — and much larger projects — in our multifamily neighborhood in the coming decade.

Income and Guidelines Determine Eligibility

How are deed-restricted affordable units offered for rent or sale? It really comes down to a lottery as was conducted earlier this year for three available apartments on South Elm. Before the lottery, though, applicants are qualified first according to household income and then prioritized for eligibility according to the city’s guidelines. Let’s look at each step individually.

Income Qualifying

Qualifying income is determined according to the affordability category under which the available unit was provided: very low-income, low-income or moderate-income. Each category has a county-determined income threshold, which is the maximum that the household may earn from all sources. The threshold is derived from the percentage of Los Angeles County average median income. For 2022 that figure was $91,100.

A low-income household earns between 50% and 80% of the county median; a very-low-income household earns between 30% and 50%. The city provides the affordability tier income thresholds in a flyer linked from the Affordable Housing webpage. The thresholds vary by number of occupants. These figures are for 2022.

Affordable housing income table 2022
In that table we highlighted the two most common categories of deed-restricted units: very low income and low income. The same flyer shows the affordable housing monthly costs by affordability category and occupancy. Again we highlighted the very low income and low income categories to show the maximum ‘affordable’ rent attached to a unit in each category for a 4-member household.

Affordable housing cost table 2022
Updated income and costs values are published on the state’s Housing and Community Development website but it is far easier to call the city at (310) 285-1141.

The city qualifies applicants based on income by using a third-party reviewer. Once an applicant is qualified for a particular unit, which is based on the affordability tier and number of occupants, then the process moves on to prioritize applicants according to the guidelines.


Once an individual or a household qualifies based on household income according to county income thresholds, the city then ranks qualified applicants for eligibility based on ‘occupancy priorities’ established by City Council. Think about it as income is the filter then the occupancy priorities are the funnel. Once qualified, which households are eligible?

The city’s occupancy priorities are also known as affordable housing guidelines. The purpose of the guidelines is to prioritize city residents first. Foremost among those qualified city applicants are households that have been displaced by redevelopment. At the front of the displaced households queue are senior-headed households and then families with children in the schools. That is tiers 1 to 6. Tier 7 is qualified senior households that were not displaced. Finally after that is tier 8 — the broader population of income-qualified applicants of any status.

Occupancy priorities
The priorities are as much a value statement as a ranking tool. Seniors get top priority; last in line are low-income households that are neither senior-headed nor displaced. The fact is that there will not be enough affordable housing produced in the coming years to meet the demand even from senior households. Low-income non-seniors have no shot.

Read more about the priorities in the city’s Occupancy Priority for Affordable Units in Beverly Hills flyer or visit section 10–3–1528 of the Beverly Hills Municipal Code.

(It is important to note that the occupancy priorities determine the ranking of applicants for a particular affordable unit rather than establish any kind of overall eligibility for affordable housing. The income qualification is the first and most important test. And this discussion applies to Beverly Hills. Deed-restricted affordable units may be available to Beverly Hills residents and we encourage you to apply.)

How to Apply for a Beverly Hills Affordable Unit?

The city’s Affordable Housing Program webpage describes the application process:

Once affordable housing units become available (if existing units are vacated or if new units are constructed), the City will begin the application process with the developer. During this process, the developer will advertise the start date on which they will accept applications for the housing unit in advance, and the City will also notify the affordable housing notification list of this date. This will provide notice for any interested party to fill out the affordable housing application, and provide the required documentation.
Once the developer and the City receives applications, they will process them to determine whether an application qualifies for the unit based on their income level. If the household qualifies for the unit based on their income level, the City will then rank the applications based on the priority list for affordable housing placement.

Note that the selection process occurs well before an affordable unit becomes available. It can take 3–5 years from the time a density bonus project is proposed to the time that an affordable unit there becomes available so there is plenty of time to qualify applicants.

Please visit the Affordable Housing Program webpage to add your household to the ‘interested parties’ list NOW for information that may be available in the future.

Let’s Be Real: Affordable Housing Will Remain in Short Supply

According to the city’s own Housing Element Annual Report (2022) the pace of affordable housing production in the city in recent years has been very slow. In 2021 there were nearly 500 market-rate units permitted but of them only ONE was very-low income. Since 2021 five affordable units became available. It’s literally a lottery to win one. And the city actually conducts a lottery.

What makes the affordable housing guidelines so important to tenants is that a qualified applicant will be slotted into a priority tier and could get edged-out by a higher-priority applicant. The odds are greatest for senior households that are displaced to make way for redevelopment. But many of those displaced for redevelopment will have moved on. In the lottery conducted for South Elm there was no displaced-household applicant; all 88 income-qualified entrants were seniors.

The situation may improve over time with coming redevelopment. There are 21 deed-restricted affordable housing units in the development pipeline today, according to the city, and another 8 affordable units are proposed. However one or more households will be displaced for each redevelopment project. How will our city ever catch up with displacement let alone increase our net number of truly affordable units?

There are two reasons to expect the supply may substantially increase in the next 5-10 years. First, Sacramento has put its thumb on the scale to encourage housing development. That is what is behind the wave of coming redevelopment. Additional rental units will come online due to incentives to convert existing carports and recreation rooms in multifamily housing into accessory dwelling units.

Unfortunately the city did not require those ADUs to be deed-restricted as affordable so they will rent at market rate. Recently a multifamily garage conversion on Spalding was offered at $3,000. That rent is not affordable for any moderate-income household much less a lower-income household.

Second, the city has identified one or more city-owned properties for affordable housing. If city partners with an affordable housing provider, which may happen soon, it could result in a hundred or more affordable units. One proposed site is West Third Street near city hall. Unfortunately City Council has indicated interest to develop only affordable senior housing.

Because the city is relying on the market to provide affordable housing we will have a long wait. And that is where the affordable housing guidelines become important. Households once qualified must queue-up for eligibility. Seniors and families with children get the nod; other households of modest means won’t be able to find an affordable unit because they are not prioritized.