L.A. Nearly Tops List of Cities That Need to Build More Housing

The number of housing units in town simply isn't keeping up with the number of residents. Harvard's Joint Center for Housing Studies reported last month that L.A. needs 382,000 additional apartments to keep up with demand. In 2014 Mayor Eric Garcetti said we need 100,000 new units. USC demographer Dowell Myers said we added 12,000 units last year but grew by 50,000 people.

Now an analysis by real estate website Trulia ranks Los Angeles as one of the neediest American cities when it comes to new housing.

The site looked at building data in the nation's largest cities for the last 20 years to come up with "elasticity" numbers that correspond to supply and demand. The lower the number, the more units a city needs, the site says.

Los Angeles tied with Pittsburgh for the smallest elasticity figure, 0.04. We were bested only by New Orleans (0.02), according to Trulia. But, remember, New Orleans housing stock was crushed by Hurricane Katrina.

Without that tragedy, L.A. might be tied for first on this list.

L.A. actually beat San Francisco, which also had a 0.04 elasticity figure, but which also saw more housing built in the last 20 years. Greater Los Angeles' housing stock grew by 8.6 percent since 1996; San Francisco's grew by 12.3 percent.

Since 1996, housing prices in Greater L.A. (including Long Beach but excluding Orange County) exploded by 202.5 percent, Trulia found.

Los Angeles is one of the cities where "home prices have tripled over the past 20 years, and affordability has fallen dramatically," the report states.

The only places with greater increases were Orange County (207 percent) and Bay Area cities (278.8 in San Francisco, 282.3 percent in San Jose and 220.6 percent in Oakland).

At the same time, Los Angeles has been stingy with new construction. While some believe that zoning restrictions are holding back new housing, Trulia blames delays in already approved projects for the slow pace of building here and elsewhere.

"Local bureaucracy, rather than zoning, accounts for much of the difference in long-run supply elasticity across the country," the analysis states. "We also find no statistically significant evidence that restrictive zoning reduces elasticity."

Keep all this in mind as you go to the polls in November and March. The Build Better L.A. city initiative in November seeks to make it easier to build new housing. Opponents, however, say it's a giveaway to greedy developers. The Neighborhood Integrity Initiative, aiming for the March ballot in L.A., wants to put a lid on new, large-scale developments.


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