Ananya Roy, professor of urban planning and director of the UCLA Luskin Institute on Inequality and Democracy, spoke to Nature about the importance of prioritizing research submissions from vulnerable groups during the COVID-19 pandemic. Journal boards and editors are exploring ways to support female researchers and others whose publications and positions are at risk. Roy, an editor of the International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, explained the journal’s decision to address structural inequality by putting papers from women and early-career researchers at the front of the review queue. “For years, I’ve paid close attention to papers from scholars who are not at elite universities and to those from early-career researchers,” Roy said. Now, she worries about doctoral students who must complete research projects amid the uncertainty of the pandemic. “This is an opportunity for us to think about how we can deepen practices of compassion, care and equity,” she said.
With the eviction moratorium set to be lifted on September 30, 2020, about 365,000 renter households in Los Angeles County are in imminent danger of eviction and homelessness according to a recent study from the UCLA Luskin Institute on Inequality and Democracy.
Please join us for a virtual public forum with housing justice researchers and community organizers to discuss the tenants’ rights crisis and what can be done to mitigate the damage to Angelenos through enforceable rights and robust protections.
The event will feature research findings from these 3 reports:
This report projects a surge in evictions and homelessness that will follow the lifting of COVID-19 emergency orders.
This report lays out a comprehensive framework for the conversion of hospitality properties into housing through the large-scale public acquisition of tourist hotels and motels.
This study provides information to public agencies and community organizations to help them better identify neighborhoods with a high concentration of vulnerable renters, to understand the neighborhoods’ socioeconomic and demographic characteristics, and to design outreach programs that address the specific challenges in each place.
Gary Blasi, UCLA Law School
Ananya Roy, UCLA Luskin Institute on Inequality & Democracy
Paul Ong, UCLA Center for Neighborhood Knowledge
Jane Nguyen, Ktown for All
Jason Li & Alejandro Cortez, Chinatown Community for Equitable Development
Moderator: Karen Umemoto, UCLA Asian American Studies Center
Ananya Roy, director of the Luskin Institute on Inequality and Democracy, co-authored an opinion piece for the Appeal that argued for the conversion of tens of thousands of vacant hotel rooms to house Angelenos threatened with homelessness. Given the downturn in the global tourist industry, many of these rooms are expected to remain unused for years to come, said Roy and co-author Jonny Coleman of NOlympics LA. The public acquisition of hotels and motels using tools such as eminent domain is the only way the region can add an adequate number of housing units quickly and affordably, they argued. “It is worth reflecting on how the present moment of compounding crises has broken past the limits of the possible,” they wrote. The piece pointed to the institute’s recently released report, “Hotel California: Housing the Crisis,” which was also cited in media outlets including LAist, Univision and NextCity.
A new UCLA report calls for the increased conversion of hotel rooms to provide shelter for thousands of people in Los Angeles who are predicted to lose their housing as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The report makes the case for an effort dubbed by the authors as (More) Hotels as Housing to repurpose tourist hotel and motel rooms that have become vacant during a downturn in global tourism that may extend for many years as a result of the health crisis. “We advocate shifting property use from hospitality to housing through the large-scale public acquisition of tourist hotels and motels,” write the report’s authors, who include Gary Blasi, a UCLA professor emeritus of law, and Professor Ananya Roy, the director of the UCLA Luskin Institute on Inequality and Democracy. The report urges public officials to act quickly to protect thousands of newly unemployed workers who will soon face eviction for unpaid rent and are likely to become homeless as a result. The authors note that Los Angeles has a long history of building luxury hotels for which developers have benefited from public subsidies and land assembly. “It is time to redirect public resources and public purpose tools such as eminent domain for low-income and extremely low-income housing, especially in Black and Brown communities where public investment has primarily taken the form of policing,” according to Blasi, Roy and their co-authors, writer and grassroots organizer Jonny Coleman and housing justice activist and researcher Elana Eden.
News reports about a $100-million rent relief program passed by the Los Angeles City Council cited research by the UCLA Luskin Institute on Inequality and Democracy (II&D) on the threat of mass evictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The relief package is the largest passed by any U.S. city to help tenants pay their rent, according to the Los Angeles Times. It is more than three times as large as a relief program approved by L.A. County supervisors, who cited the II&D report. However, an L.A. Times editorial said the city and county programs are “woefully insufficient to meet the overwhelming need for serious and sustained housing assistance.” The II&D study estimates that tens of thousands of households in Los Angeles County could fall into homelessness due to the pandemic. The research was also spotlighted in an ABC 7 News report that laid out steps that renters can take if threatened with eviction.
UCLA research on the looming threat of eviction and homelessness in Los Angeles County is guiding debate about how to safeguard residents as the region attempts to emerge from the COVID-19 lockdown. Recent studies from the Institute on Inequality and Democracy (II&D) and the Center for Neighborhood Knowledge (CNK), both housed at UCLA Luskin, have been cited by policymakers, civic leaders and advocacy groups. An II&D report authored by Gary Blasi, UCLA professor emeritus of law, estimated that tens of thousands of households in the county could fall into homelessness due to the pandemic. Blasi called for robust tenant protections, as well as urgent planning for temporary housing for those who lose their homes. His findings have been cited on the news and editorial pages of the Los Angeles Times, as well as on NPR, CalMatters, Streetsblog and Capital & Main. In response to the pandemic, the California court system in April put a hold on eviction proceedings statewide. Despite these protections, some Los Angeles landlords have sought to remove tenants by force or coercion, creating a “web of urban inequality,” according to Paul Ong, CNK director and author of a study on rent burdens that was cited by the Los Angeles Times. As the court considered lifting California’s eviction moratorium, advocacy groups such as Disability Rights California and the pro bono law firm Public Counsel lobbied against the move by presenting research from II&D and CNK, among other sources. The court subsequently delayed its review of the moratorium.
Since the death of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis, voices from across the UCLA Luskin community have joined the conversation about systemic racism in the United States, shedding light on its roots and leading calls to move toward true justice. The insights have been shared near and far. Here is a sample: Social Welfare Chair Laura Abrams told Asian news channel CNA that the wave of protest sweeping the nation has been “massive and powerful … and I don’t see it dying down any time soon.” Ananya Roy, director of the Luskin Institute on Inequality and Democracy, has led faculty from across UCLA to stand in solidarity with communities of color and “continue the unfinished work of liberation.” To explain Los Angeles’ role in the current unrest, the New York Times cited the Quality of Life Index produced by the Los Angeles Initiative, which found deep bitterness over the region’s immense income inequality. Public policy lecturer Brad Rowe told local reporters he was encouraging his students to express their support for criminal justice reform. And social justice activist Alex Norman, professor emeritus of social welfare, told the Long Beach Press-Telegram: “For most African Americans, the American dream is a nightmare. … What will it take to change the narrative? What we don’t have, leadership, at the national and local level.”
By Les Dunseith
Author Gary Blasi, a UCLA professor emeritus of law, closely and thoroughly examines the precarious state of housing for workers in Los Angeles County who are unemployed and have no replacement income in the time of COVID-19.
The report starts with the 1,198,141 unemployment claims filed so far in Los Angeles County during the COVID-19 emergency, a level of unemployment not seen since the Great Depression.
Historical experience and previous studies have consistently shown that only about two-thirds of eligible workers apply for unemployment insurance, which in this case means 599,000 additional workers in Los Angeles County who are now unemployed. Blasi said that unemployed workers may not apply for many different reasons, among them the fact that 13% of the county workforce is undocumented and thus ineligible for unemployment benefits.
“Even before the pandemic, the number of those who were precariously housed was shocking,” Blasi said. “About 600,000 people in Los Angeles County lived in households where 90% of household income was being used to pay rent.”
Based on census data, Blasi estimates that about 75% of workers with no income are renters, or about 449,000 individuals in 365,000 renter households unable to pay rent and with no replacement income, nearly all of whom he says will be displaced.
Given the unprecedented nature of the crisis and the unknown capacity of familial and social networks to save those evicted from homelessness, Blasi offers two estimates. The most optimistic estimate is that 36,000 renter households, with 56,000 children based on U.S. Census figures for Los Angeles County, are likely to become homeless. If those support networks have been severely degraded by the pandemic, those numbers could rise to 120,000 newly homeless households, with 184,000 children.
Blasi notes that nearly all eviction cases, known as unlawful detainer proceedings, were stopped in early April by the California Judicial Council, the administrative arm of the state’s judiciary. That freeze expires either 90 days after the governor declares the COVID-19 emergency has ended, or when the order is amended or repealed by the Judicial Counci.
“The governor is highly unlikely to relinquish all his emergency powers while the public health crisis continues, but the Judicial Council will face enormous pressure from landlords to lift the hold on unlawful detainer cases,” Blasi said. “The floodgates will open.”
The report shows that the various restrictions on evictions placed by state and local officials since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic are unlikely to have much effect unless tenants have access to a lawyer, which is rarely the case in Los Angeles.
Professor Ananya Roy, the director of the UCLA Luskin Institute on Inequality and Democracy, described Blasi as one of the luminaries of public interest law, and emphasized the significance of this report.
“While the report shows the vast scale of the devastation to come in the form of evictions and homelessness in Los Angeles, none of this is inevitable,” she said. “The report makes it clear that the crisis at hand is as much political inertia as it is a public health emergency.”
The paper also includes several policy recommendations and options, beginning with interventions that allow more tenants to pay rent and reduce the number of evictions, some of which are currently being discussed in Sacramento.
Given that tenants who represent themselves almost always lose eviction cases in which landlords are represented by a lawyer, the report argues for a massive expansion of the number of attorneys to help tenants defend themselves. Potential partner organizations such as Neighborhood Legal Services, Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles and Inner City Law Center are mentioned.
For those who are evicted, the report argues for expanding current “rapid rehousing” programs and dramatically increasing the number of currently vacant hotel and motel rooms to provide temporary shelter. As a last resort, the report argues, government officials must prepare to rapidly expand second-best alternatives such as villages of small structures and authorized and supported encampments.
Subsequent reports by the Institute, including “Hotels as Housing” and “Preparing for the Camps,” will address these measures in greater detail.
A new report from the Institute on Inequality and Democracy at UCLA Luskin and the public interest consulting firm Ong & Associates examines the disproportionately high burden of shelter-in-place orders on low-income and minority neighborhoods in Los Angeles County. The report illustrates race and class inequalities at the neighborhood level as communities follow mandates for social distancing to slow the spread of COVID-19. According to the report, the communities most burdened by these mandates are “those with the greatest exposure to possible virus carriers, the highest stress levels associated with struggling to remain physically fit, and the most challenges to fulfilling essential daily or weekly needs.” To measure this vulnerability, researchers developed a “shelter-in-place burden index” that analyzed factors such as population density and access to public parks and supermarkets. According to the report, the analysis shows that “over-burdened neighborhoods tend to be low-income with a disproportionately large number of people of color and to suffer from a digital and transportation divide.” The report’s authors called on governments, foundations and community organizations to assist neighborhoods with the greatest need and develop equitable programs for social and economic recovery. “This is not the time to yield to the relatively few clamoring for an opening of the U.S. economy, without regard for the spread of the coronavirus. It is the time that we recognize and close the socioeconomic gap through actions that ensure fairness and justice,” II&D Director Ananya Roy noted.