Coupling More Housing with Transit

Coupling More Housing with Transit: State, Local & Community Perspectives

// Housing, Equity & Community Series

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Please join us on Feb. 20th for the Housing, Equity and Community Series including a presentation of the recently released UCLA Lewis Center report, “Transit Oriented Los Angeles: Envisioning an Equitable and Thriving Future,” made possible by LA Metro and ULI-Los Angeles. The presentation will be followed by a panel discussion on the California Senate Bill 50 (“SB827 v.2.0”), the Los Angeles’ Transit Oriented Communities (TOC) Affordable Housing Incentive Program and the issues around density and transit-oriented development in Los Angeles and California.

SPEAKERS:

  • Mike Manville: Associate Professor, Urban Planning, UCLA Luskin School
  • Laura Raymond, Director, Alliance for Community Development (ACT-LA)
  • Arthi Varma, Deputy Director, Citywide Planning, Los Angeles Department of City Planning

MODERATOR:

  • Michael Lens: Associate Faculty Director, UCLA Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies; and Associate Professor, Urban Planning and Public Policy and UCLA Luskin School

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**Dinner will be provided. For sustainability purposes, we ask that you please bring your own beverage**

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RSVP Here: https://bit.ly/2MnPUqF

Lens on Housing Reform in Minneapolis

Michael Lens, associate professor of urban planning and public policy, spoke to the New York Times about Minneapolis’ decision to end single-family zoning. The city acknowledged its role in perpetuating housing inequity, he said, adding, “I think that’s great. ‘Minnesota nice’ in action.” Lens, associate faculty director of the UCLA Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies, said the step was necessary but unusual. It could take a while to know if changes to single-family neighborhoods are successful, he said, but added that the best measure of change may be no noticeable change at all. Lens predicted that residents will look around their neighborhood and think, “This has been a good thing. This is still a great place to live.”


 

Lens Is Interviewed About Expo Line Upzoning

In an on-air interview for the “Take Two” program on KPCC, UCLA Luskin’s Michael Lens talked about L.A.’s Planning and Land Use Management Committee (PLUM), which has recommended that the City Council adopt a proposal to re-zone property along the Expo Line. “Upzoning” the transportation corridor could mean taller, more dense housing units. Although upzoning isn’t always popular, it can lower the cost of housing through supply and demand economics. To listen to Lens’ interview, scrub forward to the 12:45-minute mark of the show.


 

Michael Lens, associate faculty director for the UCLA Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies, at the Downtown Los Angeles Forum on Transportation, Land Use and the Environment. Photos by Stan Paul

The Rent is Too Damn High: A Forum on L.A.’s Housing Crisis Skyrocketing costs and politics of supply are focus of UCLA Lewis Center’s 11th annual Downtown Los Angeles Forum

By Stan Paul

“Too Much and Not Enough” is a recipe for a crisis when it comes to rising rents and lack of available and affordable housing in Los Angeles County.

It also was an apt title of the UCLA Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies’ 11th annual Downtown Los Angeles Forum on Transportation, Land Use and the Environment, held May 18, 2018, at the California Endowment.

“The short story is the rent has been getting ‘too damn high’ for decades, and renter wages have not kept up,” said moderator Michael Lens, associate professor of urban planning and public policy at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs.

In the last few years, a threshold has been crossed as “more and more households cannot really bear the rising costs of rent,” Lens said, launching a day of debate and discussion on a nationwide problem that is acutely felt in the L.A. region, which is also beset by chronic homelessness.

Experts representing academia, government and nonprofit organizations, as well as community stakeholders, came together to discuss problems, barriers and solutions to the multifaceted issue of affordable housing.

“Research is pretty unequivocal that increasing housing supply is necessary to stabilize prices,” Lens said, but there is less certainty about what happens in neighborhoods that receive new housing supply or investment. “Neighborhood dynamics certainly complicate any of our policy options or choices and solutions for increasing housing affordability,” said Lens, who also serves as associate faculty director for the Lewis Center.

‘If we want to stem the pipeline of people moving onto our streets, we have to come up with solutions that keep people in place, and that’s a moral issue, it’s a humanitarian issue, and it doesn’t rest with individual owners, it rests with all of us.’

— Panelist Jacqueline Waggoner

Paavo Monkkonen, associate professor of public policy and urban planning at UCLA, led the first panel of speakers, who looked at the causes and effects of the crisis from a variety of perspectives.

Panelists included Isela Gracian, president of the East LA Community Corporation; Robin Hughes, president and CEO of Abode Communities; Shane Phillips, director of public policy at the Central City Association; and Carolina Reid, assistant professor of city and regional planning at UC Berkeley.

“We can’t build affordable housing fast enough to meet the need,” said Reid, adding that “we don’t have a system where we can hold cities accountable for how much housing they’re producing to meet growing housing demand.”

Since 2000, half of L.A. neighborhoods built no housing at all, according to Reid. Citing gentrification pressures at the urban core, she said neighborhoods with the best transit access are building the fewest affordable housing units.

“Planning isn’t helping,” she added, noting that California cities continue to include minimum lot sizes and restrictive zoning. Compounding the problem are lengthy permitting and regulatory requirements along with strong public opposition to some affordable housing projects.

A second panel, led by Lens, addressed the politics of supply and evaluated possible solutions. Panelists were Becky Dennison, executive director of Venice Community Housing; Jackelyn Hwang, assistant professor of sociology at Stanford University; Jacqueline Waggoner, vice president and Southern California market leader for Enterprise Community Foundation; and Ben Winter, housing policy specialist with the Office of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.

Hwang weighed the pros and cons of rent control. She cited research showing that landlords do take advantage of “perverse incentives,” such as converting units to condos to become exempt from rent control — and consequently decreasing rental housing supply. But rent control also protects tenants, she said, noting that it encourages longer-term and elderly residents to stay in place, protecting them from displacement.

“I think the takeaway from the study is it puts too much power in the hands of landlords,” she said.  “I think there are ways to have rent control and maybe we can think of more creative ways on how it’s implemented.”

Waggoner is a proponent of rent control but said the strategy should be regional and not just within the city. “If we want to stem the pipeline of people moving onto our streets, we have to come up with solutions that keep people in place, and that’s a moral issue, it’s a humanitarian issue, and it doesn’t rest with individual owners, it rests with all of us,” she said.

Keynote speaker Kathy Nyland made her point succinctly: “Put people first, share the power, and let people be part of the solution.”

As director of Seattle’s Department of Neighborhoods, Nyland oversaw the overhaul of the neighborhood council system to emphasize inclusive outreach, equity and community engagement. She said she has looked at affordable housing from several vantage points, having also served as chief of staff to a Seattle City Council member and as a senior policy advisor to the city’s mayor.

Audience members had the opportunity to join the discussion, during the panels and at a reception that followed the conference.One of them was Tham Nguyen, a 2005 alumna of the Luskin Urban Planning master’s program, who is now a senior manager in transportation planning for LA Metro’s Office of Extraordinary Innovation.

“It’s certainly a very important component of transportation, looking at the housing and land use aspect,” Nguyen said. “This is a really great learning experience to see the conversations that are happening and unfolding around affordable housing.”

Brian Taylor, professor of urban planning and outgoing director of the Lewis Center, closed the conference with this observation: “I thought transportation planning was complicated, but you’ve got me humbled here.”

Taylor, who also serves as director of the Institute of Transportation Studies at UCLA Luskin, said he often hears comments that emphasize both connections and contradictions in transportation: “Traffic is terrible. We have to stop development. Let’s build a lot of rail and have transit-oriented development, but we’re really worried about gentrification.”

While the “enormously complex” affordable housing crisis has been manifested over years and solutions may be slow in coming, “that doesn’t mean they’re not worth pursuing,” he said. “But what it does mean is that the person that has been displaced today is not going to benefit from that immediately. …

“These problems are visceral and they’re current, and the needs to address them are immediate and pressing,” he said, adding that bridging the gap between slow market changes and urgent needs on the streets of L.A. “is really going to be the challenge as we move forward.”

View additional photos from the conference on Flickr:

DTLA 2018

The South Los Angeles Homeownership Crisis

Since the Sixties: The SLA Homeownership Crisis // Housing, Equity & Community Series

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Discrimination in the housing market was legal in California until the 1968 Federal Fair Housing Act, which finally upheld the State’s frustrated efforts to legislate equal access in 1963. Legalized discrimination and segregation led to highly unequal housing outcomes between white households who benefited from several programs designed to increase homeownership and people of color who were systematically excluded. The confluence of major historical events central to the struggles for equality in South Los Angeles makes it a particularly apt lens through which to reflect on the disparities that persist to this day. Homeownership rates have decreased county-wide, but the gap with South LA has remained just as large. This leaves a shrinking share to the population able to benefit from rising property values and exacerbates wealth inequality. At the same time, the combination of the housing crises and housing shortage locks an increasing number of household in South LA into extreme housing cost burden which makes the aspiration of maintaining a stable home as distant as it ever was.

Please join us on May 7th for a discussion on the key findings from the recently released report, South Los Angeles Since the Sixties, from the UCLA Luskin Center for Neighborhood Knowledge.  Our distinguished panelists will examine what progress has been made in South LA, if any, in the domain of housing since the 1960s.

SPEAKERS:

MODERATOR:

  • Michael Lens: Assoc. Faculty Director, UCLA Lewis Center; and Professor of Urban Planning & Public Policy, UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs

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**Lunch will be provided. Please bring your own beverage**
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RSVP Here: https://bit.ly/2HlV1Ef

DTLA Forum – Housing Costs and Scarcity

Too Much & Not Enough: Housing Costs and Scarcity

11th Annual UCLA Downtown Los Angeles Forum on Transportation, Land Use, and the Environment

Presented by the UCLA Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies

The housing crisis gripping Los Angeles and cities around the country has two primary, interconnected causes: The rent is too damn high for most people to afford without cost burdens, and the politics of supply make building more housing extremely complicated. The 2018 UCLA Downtown Los Angeles Forum will explore how these two ideas interact with and contradict one another, and how finding solutions to the housing crisis can become a debate about the role of government, market forces, and community groups in society.

Lunch keynote address:
Kathy Nyland
Director, Seattle Department of Neighborhoods

Confirmed speakers:

  • Becky Dennison, Venice Community Housing
  • Isela Gracian, East LA Community Corporation
  • Jackie Hwang, Stanford University
  • Michael Lens, UCLA
  • Paavo Monkkonen, UCLA
  • Shane Phillips, Central City Association
  • Carolina Reid, UC Berkeley
  • Jacqueline Waggoner, Enterprise Community Partners
  • Ben Winter, Office of Mayor Eric Garcetti

AICP credits available.

Lunch Provided. RSVP at https://ucladtlaforum2018.eventbrite.com

Searching for Stability Amid California’s Rent Crisis Housing costs have become unmanageable, and UCLA Luskin panelists discuss how policy could help ease the burden for renters

By Zev Hurwitz

Though housing prices in Los Angeles are seemingly out of control, it may be control that can start to ease the burden for struggling renters.

At a panel conversation held at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs on Feb. 26, 2018, a trio of experts discussed the housing crisis in the area and the potential for new rent control and eviction protections to help stabilize living situations in Los Angeles.

Michael Lens, assistant professor of urban planning at UCLA Luskin, opened the event, “Protecting Renters: Discussions of Rent Control, Stabilization and Evictions,” and alluded to the growing homeless issue as “an indicator of the housing issue in Los Angeles.”

“Here in Los Angeles, renters are spending enormous sums of money on basic shelter,” Lens said. “For an alarming number of Angelenos, even basic shelter is out of reach.”

Lens noted that the most recent homeless data shows 57,000 individuals on a given night are without shelter — a 23 percent increase over the year prior.

“The homeless crisis is an indicator of the housing issue in Los Angeles,” he said.

Tony Samara, program director of land use and housing at Urban Habitat in the Bay Area, explained some of the major issues facing renters in California. The two most critical issues are lack of rent control policies and so-called just cause eviction protections.

“Just cause evictions mean that to evict a tenant, you have to have a reason,” Samara explained. “In the state of California, unless the city has a just cause ordinance, you can be evicted at the end of your lease or within 60 days on a month-to-month basis for no reason. It’s called no-fault eviction.”

Most cities in California do not have such protections for renters, weakening the ability for tenants to plan ahead. Samara noted growth in advocacy campaigns by tenants’ rights groups aiming to broaden the scope of just cause protections and rent control.

“These policies won’t solve all our problems but will at least provide more stability,” he said.

Doug Smith, a staff attorney at the pro bono law firm Public Counsel, is a 2013 alumnus of UCLA’s Urban Planning department and the UCLA School of Law. Smith spoke about how the effects on a community without tenant protections might force families into overcrowded, substandard living conditions — or even homelessness.

“The consequences are really traumatic, and we’re seeing that played out in communities without these policies,” Smith said.

Smith noted that four Los Angeles County cities — Beverly Hills, Santa Monica, West Hollywood and Los Angeles — do have some protections, but the other 84 regional cities do not.

“If you live in one of those cities, those protections are really important,” he said. “They can help stabilize your situation, allow you to continue to live in your home and invest in your community.”

Joan Ling MA UP ’82, a longtime lecturer in Urban Planning at UCLA Luskin, noted the cost of housing for moderate-income Angelenos has risen tremendously in the past 20 years.

“In 1998, 96 percent of units were affordable to moderate level incomes,” she said. “Today, only 15 percent are affordable to that group.”

One big obstacle to the spreading of tenant protections is the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act, which blocked major rent control policies and allowed landlords to dramatically raise rents on units that become available. A repeal effort has stalled in the state government, though some Californians are working to place a measure on a statewide ballot to repeal the law.

Beyond a full Costa-Hawkins repeal, Ling explained that rent control laws may be a disincentive to developers of new projects because they would be limited in their revenue generating. However, she said that compromise is possible.

“You don’t have to say that all housing units will fall under rent control,” Ling said. For instance, housing 10 years old or older would be subject to it.

Ling also noted that data show renters in areas with protections are more civically engaged and tend to remain invested in the community for longer than do tenants in unprotected neighborhoods.

The event was the second in the Housing Equity and Community Series hosted by the Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies. The forum was co-sponsored by the UCLA Ziman Center for Real Estate and the Institute on Inequality and Democracy at UCLA Luskin. It drew more than 60 students, faculty and community members.

Video of the event can be found here.

Protecting Renters in Los Angeles

California’s housing crisis is hitting renters hard. With rents fast increasing in Los Angeles, many people are scared. Whether they fear rent increases that push housing costs out of reach or being scared that improvements to the building mean a rent increase is imminent, the rental market can scary. California is known for strong tenant protections, but existing state laws like the Ellis Act (evicting tenants to convert buildings to ownership) or Costa-Hawkins Act (not allowing new construction to be under rent control) weakens these tenant protections. What’s the appetite for reforming these laws? How are they currently affecting residents in Los Angeles? What can be done to put renters in Los Angeles on a more stable foundation?

Speakers:

  • Joan Ling MA UP ’82, UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs
  • Tony Samara, Urban Habitat

Moderator:

  • Mike Lens, UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs

Lunch Provided. RSVP at https://protectingrenters.eventbrite.com

Lending a Helping Hand Panel discussion at UCLA Luskin highlights what is and isn’t being done to serve the burgeoning homeless population in L.A. County

By Zev Hurwitz

With nearly 60,000 Angelenos struggling with homelessness, local change agents have taken on the task of developing policies and services to address the crisis.

At a Nov. 15, 2017, panel discussion at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, four leaders in the field discussed the challenges and opportunities in finding solutions for the plethora of Los Angeles residents who do not have access to permanent housing.

Michael Lens, associate professor of urban planning at the Luskin School, moderated the “Homelessness in Los Angeles” event. Other participants were Jerry Ramirez, manager of Los Angeles County’s homeless initiative; Dora Leon Gallo, CEO of A Community of Friends; Jordan Vega, a current UCLA student and a director of Bruin Shelter, a registered student organization; and Skid Row resident Suzette Shaw.

Lens began the lunch program by noting some alarming homelessness statistics and emphasizing the importance of having the conversation.

“Many of us are familiar with the fact that homelessness is very much on the rise in Los Angeles County,” he said. “In January of 2017, volunteers counted over 58,000 people experiencing homelessness across L.A. County, which is a 23 percent rise over the previous year.”

Lens pointed out that 34,000 of those people are in the City of Los Angeles. Within the city, 25,000 homeless are living “unsheltered” and 11,000 fell into the category of “chronically homeless.

“These are large numbers historically, and they’re large numbers for any city,” he said.

Gallo’s organization, A Community of Friends, works with the local government and other non-profits to provide permanent supportive housing for the homeless. The group, which launched nearly 30 years ago with a grant from the county’s Department of Mental Health, manages 47 buildings and provides in-house services in 18 of those buildings.

Gallo said that her group believes in a “housing first” approach to homelessness and that the model for permanent housing relies on subsidies that enable tenants to pay a fraction of their income in rent, no matter how small that income, without sacrificing the community aspect of living in Los Angeles.

“There really was no housing provider out there that was providing housing that is affordable,” she said. “Our initial founders wanted to create a community where people would have friends.

Earlier this year, L.A. County voters approved Measure H — a tax expected to raise $355 million for homeless services over the next 10 years. The county has developed 21 strategies for addressing homelessness and plans to use Measure H funding to increase housing and services for the county’s homeless. Separately, city voters in 2016 passed Proposition HHH — a bond measure that will directly fund new housing units for low-income and housing insecure Angelenos.

“The 1.2 billion (dollars) from Proposition HHH is for the construction of permanent supportive housing,” Ramirez said. “Where Measure H comes in, it really complements supportive housing because it’s millions of dollars to provide the services. Half the challenge is getting a home for a homeless person — then the hard work begins in keeping them there.”

Ramirez said that the county is hoping to bring in more partners like A Community of Friends to help map out the landscape for new programs and housing units to be funded under Measure H.

“We’re trying to be very inclusive in this process because the county can’t do it alone,” he said. “We’re trying to be inclusive, collaborative and transparent.”

Not all services are being provided at the regional level. Vega helps run Bruin Shelter, which launched last year and currently provides beds for six housing insecure UCLA students. It is the first student-run shelter for peers in the country.

Vega’s personal experience with friends who struggled with homelessness inspired him to take on the role at Bruin Shelter, which helps operate the shelter of Students4Students. Students have access to UCLA medical and social welfare students who provide case management services.

“Our space is kind of small — we’re next to a church,” he said. “We’re currently under construction, hoping to expand, so that we can accommodate more students.”

Suzette Shaw is a resident of Skid Row and knows firsthand the struggles that homeless people can face living on the streets.

“We need to make sure that now that we have the dollars, we are intentionally allocating them and very proactive in allocating those funds to organizations and individuals who make sure that the dollars are addressing the needs of the people,” she said.

Shaw used to run a business and commuted long distances to work to try to make ends meet before moving to Skid Row. She’s now living in a housing unit under her Section Eight voucher, which she had for nine months before receiving a unit. Shaw is very open about her story because people need to have more exposure to homeless in order to address the crisis.

“People tend to stereotype and sensationalize what poverty looks like,” Shaw said. “We have to get real about who we are. We talk about NIMBY-ism, ‘not-in-my-backyard.’ People are either going to live on the sidewalk next to you or else you’re going to make a space for them in the building next to you.”

The issue is one of basic human rights for Shaw.

“I may be poor and I may live on the brink, but I do deserve housing and housing should be a human right,” she said.

The talk was part of an ongoing Housing, Equity and Community series put on by the UCLA Lewis Center, which co-sponsored the event with the Institute on Inequality and Democracy at UCLA Luskin and the UCLA Ziman Center for Real Estate. The Lewis Center plans to hold more events in the winter and spring quarters on housing issues.

Homelessness in Los Angeles

Tens of thousands of Angelenos, including families with children, are without homes every night. Many more are on the brink of homelessness. In response to this crisis, both the County and City of Los Angeles recently passed funding measures intended to provide new and needed services and resources.

We will explore the issue of homelessness, and the response of local institutions, from three different perspectives: a Skid Row resident and activist, a developer of permanent supportive housing, and UCLA’s own BruinShelter. These speakers will share their perspectives and answer questions from the audience.

Confirmed speakers:
Dora Leong Gallo, A Community of Friends

Suzette Shaw, Activist and Skidrow Resident

Jordan Vega, Director of Resources, Bruin Shelter

Jerry Ramirez, Homelessness Initiative, Chief Executive Office – County of Los Angeles

Moderated by Professor Mike Lens

Lunch Provided. RSVP at homelessnessla.eventbrite.com