A Worldly Perspective

Thinking beyond borders is an integral part of a UCLA education.

The commitment to international scholarship is even spelled out in the Luskin School’s strategic plan. It recognizes UCLA’s unique position as a public university situated “in the ‘world city’ of Los Angeles, a living laboratory for the far-reaching issues facing communities across the United States and around the world.”

Roughly one in five current faculty members at UCLA Luskin conduct research primarily with an international focus. Their scholarly contributions frequently appear in journals with a global orientation or get recognized in other ways.

Two men in academic robes present a canister containing a document to a woman in the middle

Professor Ananya Roy receives the Doctorat Honoris Causa (honorary doctorate) at the University of Geneva from Rector Yves Flückiger and Social Sciences Dean Pascal Sciarni.

For example, Ananya Roy, professor of urban planning and social welfare, traveled to Switzerland in October to receive a Doctorat Honoris Causa at the University of Geneva. An honorary doctorate is one of the highest academic honors one can receive.

“I didn’t have any ties to the University of Geneva,” Roy said after the ceremony, which was televised. “But as the faculty there reminded me, it will now always be my university.”

Some faculty efforts involve a pooling of resources. The Latin American Cities Initiative draws on Los Angeles’ ties to countries across the Americas to share knowledge about managing urban spaces. Directed by Paavo Monkkonen, professor of urban planning and public policy, the initiative known as Ciudades hosts seminars and conferences and conducts an international planning studio in Latin America that immerses students in real-world case studies.

And the Global Lab for Research in Action focuses on hard-to-reach populations around the world through a social justice lens. Manisha Shah of public policy leads the research, which seeks remedies for the health, education and economic needs of women and children.

A global focus is also found in many L.A.-based efforts, both new and ongoing.

In summer 2022, social welfare students and scholars hosted the International Summer University in Social Work, during which colleagues from around the world explored theories and practices that promote justice. More than 20 participants from four continents came to campus for a two-week exploration of topics such as racism, the wealth gap, gender bias and homelessness.

Last spring, the Luskin School hosted a virtual Global Mini-Summit as part of its signature Luskin Summit policy dialogue series. Discussions are underway to expand this concept into an ongoing series focused on international concerns.

Plus, numerous alumni now hold positions in foreign governments or work in agencies or businesses with an international mindset.

Several stories in this edition of Luskin Forum take a closer look at the ways UCLA Luskin is bringing a global perspective to issues of public concern.

Monkkonen on Newsom’s Housing Pledge

Paavo Monkkonen, professor of urban planning and public policy, was cited in a CalMatters article about Gov. Gavin Newsom’s ambitious plans to build housing in California and his struggle to bring them to fruition. In 2017, the governor made a campaign promise to build 3.5 million homes by 2025 but has since revised the goal with a proposal to build 2.5 million homes by 2030. To date, only about 452,000 homes have been issued permits. The governor’s goal of including 1 million affordable units in the new construction has also faced setbacks. Building affordable homes puts enormous pressure on cities because of a lack of state subsidies and tax credits to fund the projects. “We’re funding a quarter of that, at best. So that’s an interesting conundrum, where their own goal is unattainable,” Monkonnen said. While Newsom’s administration has struggled to fulfill the pledges, the number of affordable homes built in recent years has nonetheless significantly increased.


 

Monkkonen on Factors Behind Southland’s Rent Spikes

Paavo Monkkonen, associate professor of urban planning and public policy, spoke to the Los Angeles Times about rising rents around the state and country. Of the most expensive places for renters in the U.S., two Southern California cities are in the top five, according to a recent report. In Glendale, the average rent is $4,472 per month, a 36.32% increase from 2021. In Santa Monica, the average rent is $4,357, up more than 15%. Monkkonen said a city’s composition of renters and homeowners is a key factor. “Why is Santa Monica more expensive than Beverly Hills for renters? It may be the case that Beverly Hills has extremely expensive properties, but it’s owner-occupied and their rental properties are small and older,” he said. “If you have two cities where the demand for living in the city is similar, but city A has newer, larger rental units, then the rent’s going to be higher there because of that.”


 

Monkkonen, Lens on Flawed Approach to Fair Housing Compliance

A Policies for Action article co-authored by UCLA Luskin faculty members Paavo Monkkonen and Michael Lens assessed California’s bumpy implementation of the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, part of the U.S. Fair Housing Act. The rule, which sets out a framework for local governments and agencies to take decisive steps to promote fair housing, was codified into California law in 2018. Research by Lens and Monkkonen, along with co-author Moira O’Neill of UC Berkeley, found a lack of political will to comply with the law in some jurisdictions and a lack of clarity on the state’s expectations. The authors write, “Is it enough to do ‘better’? Given the deeply entrenched segregation in U.S. land-use plans, the reforms we’ve observed are not sufficient to achieve the ‘integrated and balanced living patterns’ envisioned by the Fair Housing Act.” They called on the state to create binding minimum expectations, including the use of metrics to track progress toward the goal of desegregated cities.


 

UCLA Luskin Scholars on Strengthening Democracy in the Americas

A June 8 conference on how to strengthen the collective defense of democracy in the Americas featured several scholars from the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs. The hybrid in-person discussion and webinar was a companion event to the Ninth Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles. The webinar focused on strengthening the Inter-American Democratic Charter, adopted in 2001 by 34 countries of the Organization of American States. The goal is to generate and advance realistic policy recommendations to improve the charter’s application by OAS member states. President Gabriel Boric of Chile offered the keynote address . In addition to Dean Gary Segura, participating UCLA Luskin faculty included Adjunct Professor of Social Welfare Helmut Anheier, Professor of Urban Planning Susanna Hecht, Associate Professor of Urban Planning Veronica Herrera and Associate Professor of Public Policy and Urban Planning Paavo Monkkonen. The webinar is sponsored by the UCLA Burkle Center for International RelationsUCLA Latin American Institute and UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs and co-sponsored by the Latin American Program at the Wilson CenterThe Carter Center and the Community of Democracies

 

View photos from the event on Flickr:

Defense of Democracy


 

Luskin Housing Scholars Weigh In on California’s Crisis

A UCLA Newsroom article on how to tackle California’s affordable housing crisis cited several scholars from UCLA Luskin. Associate Professor of Urban Planning and Public Policy Paavo Monkkonen sees the housing crisis as a combination of “unaffordability, instability and inability to house” and has urged the state to “use many levers to push cities to allow more new housing.” Los Angeles Initiative Director Zev Yaroslavsky has cautioned against changes that fundamentally undermine the character of neighborhoods. He suggested increasing zoning capacity but allowing the city to decide where it should take place. “You don’t need to destroy communities,” Yaroslavsky said. Associate Professor of Urban Planning and Public Policy Michael Lens highlighted the urgent need for more money for permanent supportive housing. The article was written by Jim Newton, editor of UCLA’s Blueprint magazine, who concluded that the competing arguments “reflect and shape California’s ongoing and urgent search for ways to adequately house every resident of the state.” 


Monkkonen on UCLA as a Model for Affordable Housing

Associate Professor of Urban Planning and Public Policy Paavo Monkkonen spoke to Curbed about UCLA’s new guaranteed student housing plan. UCLA is the first University of California school to offer four years of housing for first-year students and two years of housing for transfer students. Meanwhile, the city of L.A. continues to struggle to produce affordable housing. According to Monkkonen, the biggest lesson to be learned from UCLA is the power of consolidating everything from planning to financing in one department and essentially becoming a public-housing developer. “UCLA develops its own land-use plan and then executes capital programs like the construction of dorms,” Monkkonen said. “Proactively planning for housing to be built rather than setting up rules and waiting to see if developers build or not is the kind of paradigm shift we need.” He also recommended expanding affordable housing closer to schools in order to benefit students, families, teachers and staff.


Luskin Summit Draws Inspiration from Europe to Combat Homelessness

A panel of experts from around the world joined the Feb. 23 Luskin Summit webinar “International Models of Social Housing: Lessons for California” to brainstorm strategies to address housing affordability and homelessness. California Assembly member Alex Lee welcomed attendees and kicked off the event by noting that nearly half of California residents qualify as rent-burdened as a result of the affordable housing crisis. Associate Professor of Urban Planning and Public Policy Paavo Monkkonen led the conversation about the successes of social housing and urban planning in Europe that could be adopted in California. Researcher Kath Scanlon from the London School of Economics noted that the goal of social housing is to solve housing affordability, but a successful social housing program will start by alleviating some of the pressure in the housing market. “For a variety of reasons, not everyone is going to be able to house themselves in the way we think they should be housed,” Scanlon said. “If California wants to step up, it will not be straightforward, but you have to start somewhere.” Helsinki’s housing program manager, Hanna Dhalmann, discussed Finland’s largest and most successful municipal housing company. “The first step is to give people real homes,” Dhalmann said. She recommended starting by investing in building affordable housing and turning housing shelters into apartments. Finally, former Deputy Mayor Jean-Louis Missika described how Paris was able to significantly expand housing production. Vivian Rescalvo, a member of the Board of Advisors of the Luskin School of Public Affairs, offered a closing statement for the event.


Stiffer Housing Requirement Will Benefit Angelenos, Monkkonen Says

Associate Professor of Urban Planning and Public Policy Paavo Monkkonen spoke to the Los Angeles Times about the state’s ruling that Los Angeles must add more than 250,000 homes to its zoning plan. State housing regulators rejected the city’s proposed long-term plan for growth and will require the city to rezone to accommodate the additional quarter-million new homes. City leaders must fix the housing plan by October in order to access billions of dollars in affordable housing grants, which will be necessary to support the growing number of low-income and homeless residents. Monkkonen agreed that the state’s ruling was justifiable given the city’s rejection of more assertive state-led rezoning proposals in favor of greater local control over where growth should go. “Allowing more housing more quickly will benefit Angelenos,” he said. “City officials shouldn’t drag their feet on taking the necessary actions to allow more housing, and should act at the pace that a crisis demands.”


Monkkonen Calls for Collaboration on Student Housing

Associate Professor of Urban Planning and Public Policy Paavo Monkkonen was featured in a CalMatters article about the California State University system’s application to build affordable housing for nearly 3,400 students. The revised plan calls for $823 million in total funding for housing projects across 10 campuses, with $535 million coming from a new state housing grant and the rest from outside funds. The proposal comes as tens of thousands of college students struggle with unstable housing situations and even homelessness. Some campuses are currently building new living facilities to accommodate long waiting lists of students seeking campus housing, but student housing is often expensive. Looking ahead, Monkkonen said the state should better coordinate the student housing construction efforts of California’s public colleges and universities to share financing and other ideas. “This is a very obvious place for knowledge sharing,” he said. “We’re all on the same team.”