As development activity intensified across the city, local YIMBY groups leveraged their Measure S victory to reframe housing discussions. Drawing on neoclassical economic theory, their framework naturalized displacement and soaring rents while splintering the city’s renter community.
This MGI in Society brings together interdisciplinary expertise and rigorous data collection to analyze the state of housing in Los Angeles and propose policies for change.
Few issues are more central to Los Angeles’ future than the cost of housing. It shapes a city’s identity, fueling inequality and threatening to split it into enclaves of wealth surrounded by oceans of poverty.
Across America, homelessness is rising as people struggle to pay the rent and mortgage on their homes. Los Angeles’s growing homeless population is a direct result of the city’s inability to build enough affordable units.
Many people are finding creative ways to make their homes more affordable, from converting garages into apartments to using tax credits to finance renovations. But there are limits to what can be done, especially when neighborhoods have been zoned for inefficient single-family housing. Increasing the number of apartments can help. But it won’t solve the problem on its own. It needs strong policies that support people as they move through the transition to homeownership and into apartment living. That includes programs like RAD.
Homelessness is the most visible form that inequality, a severe housing shortage and poverty can take in a metropolis like Los Angeles. Every night, more than 66,000 Angelenos go to bed without a roof over their heads—children evicted from their homes, veterans suffering from trauma, survivors of domestic violence, formerly incarcerated individuals and others with mental illness and physical disabilities.
The city is grappling with a homeless population that has outgrown its capacity to respond. Its revolving door of people moving in and out of homelessness has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has brought outbreaks of typhus, hepatitis, syphilis and tuberculosis to unhoused communities.
As the city grapples with these challenges, it must ensure that all communities benefit from the growth that’s happening around them. Journey-based solutions that recognize how different at-risk groups and individuals experience homelessness—whether they are nonchronically homeless or formerly incarcerated, for example—can help ensure that everyone gets the support they need to achieve stability.
The term “inclusion” has many meanings. In the context of housing, it refers to ensuring that all community members are included in housing policy and planning decisions. This is a critical factor in the success of the city’s housing transformation.
The city is focusing on inclusion through several programs. These include the Transit Oriented Communities Incentive Program and Density Bonus, which provide developers with additional development incentives in exchange for the set aside of affordable units. Additionally, the Unpermitted Dwelling Unit Ordinance allows homeowners to convert their existing single-family homes into multifamily dwellings if they meet life safety and affordability requirements.
In addition to these policies, the city is implementing projects like Project Homekey. This will allow the city to purchase hotels to serve people experiencing homelessness impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and provide them with temporary and permanent housing options. This is one way the city can end homelessness, but it will take a concerted effort from all of LA’s neighborhoods to get there.
A decent and stable place to live can help people pursue their greatest dreams, but in Los Angeles, a combination of rising home prices and legal challenges to planned housing developments has stalled progress. At the same time, people experiencing homelessness have been forced to seek shelters outside their homes and communities, increasing the need for temporary and permanent housing options.
Unlike most of Los Angeles, Downtown has a built-in advantage when it comes to high density residential development. Suggest a seven-story apartment building in most LA neighborhoods and you’ll hear pitchforks and torches; suggest a 50-story skyscraper in DTLA and the community might simply shrug—as long as there’s a good coffee shop on the ground floor.
The answer lies in a mixture of policies that curb speculative development, encourage office conversion to housing, and provide new options for those experiencing displacement and homelessness. Many cities across North America have adopted vacancy taxes to combat speculation and generate revenue for affordable housing.
Adu conversion in Los Angeles can play a crucial role in addressing the housing crisis. A decent and stable place to live can help people pursue their greatest dreams, but in Los Angeles, a combination of rising home prices and legal challenges to planned housing developments has stalled progress. At the same time, people experiencing homelessness have been forced to seek shelters outside their homes and communities, increasing the need for temporary and permanent housing options.