In a recent Bloomberg column, Associate Professor of Urban Planning Michael Manville weighed in on SB9, a new California law that allows people who own single-family homes to add additional units on their property by constructing a new building or turning an existing house into a duplex. SB9 creates opportunities to make land more valuable in areas where housing is in great demand by allowing small-scale projects and giving homeowners a financial stake in new housing. Manville said that many of those who oppose SB9 don’t want to see their neighborhoods change, in spite of the financial advantages of the new law. “They like their neighborhood, they are risk averse, and they don’t want to see it change,” he said. However, Manville also noted that many historic L.A. neighborhoods include attractive duplexes and fourplexes from the early 20th century. “If more of the city just looked like that, we probably wouldn’t have a housing crisis,” he said.
Associate Professor of Urban Planning Michael Manville was mentioned in a Smart Cities Dive article about New York City’s plans to implement congestion pricing. Vehicles entering designated downtown areas will pay a congestion fee on a once-a-day basis in order to reduce traffic. New York is currently holding public meetings to discuss the congestion pricing plan, and there will be a 16-month environmental assessment before it can go into effect. Despite local opposition, congestion pricing policies have proven to reduce traffic in other cities, including London, Stockholm and Singapore. “Empirically, from almost any place where we see congestion pricing, it increases transit ridership,” Manville said. Proponents of the congestion pricing plan hope to see increased use of public transit, better traffic flow and reduced air pollution with the new policy. Furthermore, revenue from the congestion fees will be used to fund transit projects throughout the city.
Associate Professor of Urban Planning Michael Manville spoke to KCRW’s “Greater LA” about the future of traffic in Los Angeles and the prospect of flying cars as a solution. Mayor Eric Garcetti’s interest in flying cars resulted in the creation of the Urban Air Mobility Partnership, which aims to release low-noise, electric aircraft by 2023. However, Manville expressed skepticism about the logistics of this new technology. “It’s just the beauty of technology that doesn’t exist yet. … You can say anything about it, right? It’s, ‘Oh, yeah, it’s gonna be affordable, and we’re gonna have this many vehicles in seven years,’” Manville said. “It just doesn’t work that way.” Manville was also featured in another “Greater LA” episode focusing on the cinematic inspiration for flying cars, from “The Jetsons” to “Blade Runner.” “If someone says, ‘We want to have less congestion and make it easier to move around,’ flying cars are a silly way to accomplish that,” Manville said.
Associate Professor of Urban Planning Michael Manville was featured in an article in the Cut discussing ways to combat climate change at an individual level. “The thing that is heating up the planet is that people get into cars, turn the key and start burning fossil fuels,” Manville said. According to the EPA, personal vehicles account for about one-fifth of the United States’ total greenhouse gas emissions. Manville and other experts recommended reducing driving time by shopping local, consolidating errands into single trips and avoiding driving during rush hour. Manville also expressed support for policies that make driving less convenient and more expensive, such as raising parking fees, increasing gas taxes or implementing congestion pricing. Manville called zoning codes that require new construction to include parking “one of the biggest subsidies to car ownership and use that exists” and recommended getting rid of them in order to encourage more sustainable transportation habits.
Associate Professor of Urban Planning Michael Manville spoke to Curbed about New York Gov. Kathy Hochul’s efforts to implement congestion pricing. By charging drivers to access Manhattan’s central business district, the congestion pricing system would feed $1 billion in annual revenue to the MTA, which could use the funds for improvements such as increasing bus and bike lanes and widening sidewalks. According to Manville, “Congestion is stopping us from making it a better kind of city for the vast majority of New Yorkers who almost never drive.” He also stressed the importance of creating a universal basic income system for eligible households in the region to ensure that the congestion pricing system is equitable. And he argued that “congestion pricing is actually great for drivers,” noting that the data collected can be used to improve the planning and pricing of parking. “People always want to overlook how much better [congestion pricing] can make driving,” he concluded.
Associate Professor of Urban Planning Michael Manville was featured in a Los Angeles Times article about the prospects of Senate Bill 9, which would allow for multifamily homes to be built in neighborhoods currently zoned for standalone houses only. Under the “duplex bill,” owners would be able to subdivide their properties and build up to four homes on each formerly single-family lot. According to Manville, SB 9 is a key opportunity to build housing in California, if it can survive the political process intact. “[Two recent] amendments are basically a step away from the bill’s original vision,” he explained. “A bill like SB 9 was always going to produce the most housing when there weren’t restrictions on who might occupy the housing that gets built on one of these parcels.” Manville added that in the new version of SB 9, “now you’re talking about a homeowner that wants to be a developer, and that’s very different from a homeowner that’s looking to sell their parcel.”
An Orange County Register story on frustrations surrounding California’s rental assistance program, which made $5.2 billion available to help low-income tenants and their landlords during the COVID-19 pandemic, cited research led by the Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies at UCLA Luskin. Surveys conducted in July 2020 and March 2021 found that, in Los Angeles County, renters’ debt rose sharply as the pandemic dragged on. Almost half of those surveyed in March turned to friends and family to help them pay rent, 58% dipped into their savings and 37% took out an emergency or payday loan, the study found. “That’s a lot of debt that people have accumulated, and they will be left out in the cold if we end up moving forward with a program that just pays your rent,” said Associate Professor of Urban Planning Michael Manville, co-author of the study. The research was also highlighted by Commercial Observer and Multi-Housing News.
In a new survey of Los Angeles County renters, 49% of households reported that they were unable to pay all of their rent during the pandemic.
The study, by researchers from UCLA and the University of Southern California, found the median amount renters owe their landlords is $2,800. That suggests that countywide, tenants owe landlords upwards of $3 billion.
The findings are from one of a pair of surveys of 1,000 renters each — one conducted in July 2020, which focused on renters’ ability to pay rent in the short term, and another in March 2021, asking about their ability to pay over the entirety of the pandemic.
The preliminary results show that in both surveys, about 7% of renters missed a full rent payment in at least one of the three months before the study was conducted. But by the time the second survey was conducted, the share of renters paying less than the full amount to a landlord at least once during the crisis had almost doubled to 31%, up from 17% in July 2020.
The study was co-authored by Michael Manville, Paavo Monkkonen and Michael Lens, associate professors at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs; and Richard Green, director of the USC Lusk Center for Real Estate.
A slight majority of respondents reported paying their rent on time and in full, and many of those who owe rent said they were behind by less than a month. But other renters are emerging from the COVID-19 emergency in a financial hole they will struggle to climb out of on their own, the authors write in a research brief published today.
Of particular concern is evidence from the surveys that renters’ debt rose sharply as the COVID-19 crisis dragged on. Only about 6% of Los Angeles tenants reported using a credit card to pay their rent prior to the pandemic. That figure rose to 19% of respondents in the early days of the emergency, and to 44% in the latest survey. Also in the 2021 survey, 49% said they turned to friends and family to help them pay rent, 58% dipped into their savings and another 37% reported taking out an emergency or payday loan.
The overall share of renters taking on debt reached 45% in the second survey, up from 32% in the first.
Other findings include:
- Just over 15% of tenants who were behind on their rent payments in 2020 had been threatened with eviction; that figure increased to 25% in the 2021 survey. Although an eviction moratorium is still in effect in Los Angeles County, tenants can still be threatened with evictions or have evictions initiated against them; a court won’t act until the moratorium ends.
- Similarly, 6% reported in 2020 that an eviction had been initiated against them. In 2021, that percentage tripled to 18%.
- In the 2021 survey, about 68% of all respondents said they had received federal aid during the pandemic, and about 15% reported getting local aid.
The problem? The data show that many tenants owe money to people or institutions other than their landlords, and the researchers write that many may be in that position precisely because they were deeply concerned about their housing security.
The report suggests a solution often advocated by economists as the best way to help people facing financial trouble: Just give people money. Distributing cash to tenants who are financially distressed would allow them to pay back whomever is owed the money — a landlord, another creditor or a family member.
“Programs where the government pays a landlord are sometimes justified as ways to prevent fraud or misuse,” Manville said. “And we should certainly be concerned about fraud. But we need to weigh those concerns against the possibility that an overly cautious program will deny needed assistance to some people who are in real financial trouble.”
To allay concerns about fraudulent claims — which in most government redistribution programs are very rare — the authors suggest ways the state could ask for evidence of debt, lost work or income.
The 2021 survey was funded and produced by the UCLA Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies in partnership with the USC Lusk Center for Real Estate, the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs and the Committee for Greater LA.
Urban Planning faculty members Michael Manville and Brian Taylor spoke to the Los Angeles Times about the return of L.A. traffic levels to pre-pandemic levels. “Traffic is a product of people having places to go,” said Manville, but he noted that “it’s the last few vehicles on the road that are responsible for most of the delays.” Manville argued that congestion pricing is key to reducing traffic. “Traffic congestion arises because there’s excess demand and scarce road space,” he said. He also pointed out that congestion pricing can be used to increase equity “because the absolute poorest people don’t drive … [and] no one suffers from congestion more than people stuck on a bus.” Taylor added that “when traffic demand is near or above the capacity of the street and highway system, any changes — adding or subtracting relatively few cars — can have a significant effect on delays.”
Associate Professor of Urban Planning Michael Manville was mentioned in a San Diego Union-Tribune article about the city’s proposed road fee, which would charge drivers a set price for every mile traveled. The road charge would help pay for San Diego’s $160-billion proposal to expand rail, bus and other transportation services throughout the region. It would also help replace the revenue from the current gas tax as fossil fuels are phased out in efforts to combat climate change. “The gas tax, regardless of how much revenue it raises, is in fact a climate tax, a carbon tax,” Manville explained. “We probably shouldn’t just throw that out the window.” A statewide pilot program is also testing the road charge strategy. Experts are debating whether to adopt a flat per-mile fee or charge more to drivers with less fuel-efficient vehicles. While the second option would be more complicated, it would incentivize drivers to adopt cleaner vehicles.