Housing needs in Los Angeles
Housing needs in Los Angeles

Los Angeles Could Be at Peak Housing Crisis

Crazy rents are cooling off in places like San Francisco, so there's hope in L.A. that the worst of the housing crisis is behind us. But so far the numbers continue to bring bad news. Home prices are the highest they've been since 2007, according to CoreLogic's May monthly sales data. And median monthly rent this spring in Los Angeles County is $2,600 for a two-bedroom, according to listings site Trulia.

The California Housing Partnership Corporation recently parsed U.S. Census Bureau Data to determine just how bad it is in L.A. for a new report, "Los Angeles County Renters in Crisis." It concludes that the county needs an additional 551,807 more affordable units to meet the needs of the lowest-income renters. That's far more than the 382,000 new units recommended by Harvard's Joint Center for Housing Studies last year.

"We're in a real crisis in terms of meeting this need," says Lisa Payne, policy director of the Southern California Association of Non-Profit Housing, which co-presented the report. "It's not complicated. People need a home. We need to invest in creating and preserving affordable homes."

Payne says the report — which documents a 32 percent increase in rents in the county and a 3 percent decrease in real median income since 2000 — shows that those 551,807 units we need could house folks who are on the edge of homelessness today. "These are people who are housed, but they're housed in places they can't afford," she says. "If you're overpaying, paying more than 50 percent of your income on rent, or doubling or tripling up on roommates, you're one unexpected event from being thrown out."

The crisis is so bad in L.A. County that the poverty rate jumps to more than 25 percent — meaning one in four Angelenos is officially poor — when local housing costs are considered, according to the report. Locals need to earn $48.06 an hour or $8,330 a month just to be able to afford the median two-bedroom apartment in the county, which the report lists at $2,499. The median individual income in the county is a little more than $28,000, according to the census. Eighty percent of extremely low-income folks in L.A. County spend 50 percent or more of their income on rent, a portion known as "severely rent-burdened," according to the report.

Danielle Mazzella, housing policy analysis with the California Housing Partnership Corporation and author of the report, says the data make clear that "some of the homeless issues in Los Angeles County are related to the housing shortage."

The document recommends government reinvestment in affordable housing, including issuing new state bonds and expanding tax breaks for low-income residents, and it gives an amen to Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti's "affordable housing linkage fee" proposal, which would require developers of new housing projects to pitch in to a fund for affordable units.

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