A Half Million Angeleno Households Are "Worst-Case" Renters on the Edge

It turns out Los Angeles' housing crisis is America's housing crisis.

Many of the factors that have been wreaking havoc for Angelenos have been at play from coast to coast. A federal report released this week concludes that the number of people in the United States struggling to pay rent increased by 8 million between 2005 and 2015.

Of course, Greater L.A. helped lead the way among the nation's 15 largest metro areas. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's "Worse-Case Housing Needs" report to Congress found that 1.4 million households here, about one in three, was considered "very low income." Only New York, with 1.8 million, had more. More than half of those low-income households in Los Angeles and Orange counties, 567,000, are "worst-case housing needs" homes.

"Worst-case housing needs are defined as renters with very low incomes (below half the median in their area) who do not receive government housing assistance and who either paid more than half their monthly incomes for rent, lived in severely substandard conditions, or both," according to a HUD statement..

Again, only Greater New York (815,000) had more of these kinds of households. "Reflecting particularly severe local conditions, more than one-half of the very low-income renters residing in and around Miami, Riverside, Phoenix and Los Angeles experienced worst-case needs in 2015," according to the report.

The HUD data is consistent with a report in May that concluded Los Angeles needs an additional 551,807 affordable units to meet the needs of families at the bottom economic rung. Earlier this month, a report from real estate site Zillow found that nearly 2,000 Angelenos could end up on the streets if rent increases continued apace. This HUD report seems worse.

"They're not only very poor relative to everybody else, but they don't get a lick of government help, so they're unassisted and unsubsidized," HUD spokesman Brian Sullivan says.

The latest Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority count had 57,794 people on the streets, a 23 percent increase compared with 2016. HUD's own data is from 2015 because it's based on the last available figures from the American Housing Survey. But it suggests that more bad news could be developing, since Los Angeles hasn't begun to get a grip on much-needed housing development, particularly for the low-income, in the last few years.

"These folks have housing, but they're a stone's throw from homelessness," HUD's Sullivan says of the "worst- case" households in L.A. "A severe health crisis, any kind of economic shock, all the things people experience in life, they'd be hard-pressed to find other housing."

Los Angeles' problems are charged by a rise in renters — many refugees of the housing crisis who moved out of foreclosed homes — and a flatlining of housing development, he says. At the same time, real blue-collar income in Greater Los Angeles, including Orange County, has actually decreased while rents have increased. "Contributing most to the increase in worst-case needs was a notable shift from homeownership to renting," according to the report.

"This market-driven increase in worst-case needs resulted from increased competition for a shrinking supply of affordable rental units," according to the report. "Even with rental assistance, 6 of 10 extremely low-income renters and 4 of 10 very low-income renters do not have access to affordable and available housing units. Among very low-income renters in 2015, only 25 percent of households had rental assistance."

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