Los Angeles is one of the expensive places in America, alongside New York and San Francisco, for renters. No surprise there.

See also: Why Is Rent So High in the Great Recession?

But UCLA researchers crunched the numbers and concluded that we're No. 1 in the United States when it comes to unaffordable rent. 

While NYC and San Francisco beat us in pure, sky-high rental costs, we're still more unaffordable. Here's why, according to the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs:


Our median income is lower, meaning it takes a much larger percentage of our pay to make the monthly rent, the academics say. And Los Angeles has fewer government-subsidized and rent-controlled units than New York and San Francisco, they said.

Further: More people in L.A depend on rental housing to put roofs over their heads. While slightly more than one in three Americans (35 percent) rent, more than half of Angelenos (52 percent) do, UCLA says.

But here's the clincher: Compared to folks in other big American cities, Los Angeles residents pay the highest proportion of their income, nearly half of it (47 percent), for rent, the school concludes. Ouch.

The findings were published this week by the UCLA Ziman Center for Real Estate.

Perhaps one of the saddest conclusions here is that, despite an alleged nationwide economic recovery, things are getting worse for renters in Los Angeles.

See also: L.A. is America's No. 1 Rental Market

The researchers believe that the widening gap between rich and poor during and after the Great Recession has exacerbated the issue. Paul Ong, UCLA professor of urban planning:

During periods of increasing inequality, the burden has grown even more severe. Vacancy rates have risen only slightly — even dipping at times when the housing burden has increased. And renters are paying more for the same quality housing, suggesting that neither market forces nor changing housing quality fully explain the increasing rents.

Yep, rent has gone up for no good reason (except maybe for profiteering). Income has not. And the median income of home owners in Los Angeles is more than double that of renters, UCLA says. 

Meanwhile the burden of rent, which used to be confined to poor folks who often spent half or more of their income on apartments, has spread to the middle class in L.A., the researchers said.

What can be done? It's plain and simple: More lower- and moderate-income housing units need to be made available in Los Angeles, UCLA says.

As it is, L.A. City Hall acknowledges that “5,300 units per year that are affordable to moderate-incomes or below” need to be added to our housing stock, a summary of the research says. “Los Angeles has instead averaged roughly 1,100 units per year since 2006,” according to UCLA.

There are miles to go before we sleep (in a place we can afford).

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