What If NIMBYs Got Paid to Become YIMBYs?

Paavo Monkkonen, professor of urban planning and public policy at UCLA Luskin, weighed in on the notion of paying people to accept the expansion of affordable housing in their neighborhoods, an idea laid out in a Boston Globe commentary. Offering financial incentives to community members could turn NIMBYs into YIMBYs and increase the housing stock, which is in desperately short supply in many parts of the country, the author argued. Public support for more construction could also lead to new zoning laws permitting denser housing in some neighborhoods. The proposal, cast as creative brainstorming for a solution to the affordable housing crisis, raises questions about the logistics of making payments as well as issues of fairness and equity. “We should continue to think about ways to more evenly and equitably distribute the benefits of urban development,” Monkonnen said.


Monkkonen on L.A.’s Challenge to Meet Affordable Housing Goals

Paavo Monkkonen, professor of urban planning and public policy at UCLA Luskin, spoke to LAist about the status of Mayor Karen Bass’ pledge to fast-track affordable housing construction in Los Angeles. Development projects in single-family neighborhoods are now ineligible for the accelerated permitting due to a rules change in June. About three-quarters of L.A.’s residential land is zoned for single-family homes, and proposing large apartment developments in those areas can lead to outcries from homeowners opposed to neighborhood change. Monkkonen said leaving suburban areas untouched brings its own risks. Under state law, the city of Los Angeles must plan for 185,000 new low-income homes by 2029 and reverse long-standing patterns of segregation by putting many new affordable homes in wealthier areas. “Once you take them off the table, it’s really hard to live up to the fair housing mandate,” Monkkonen said.


Sharing the American Dream Through Granny Flats and Garage Units

Urban Planning Professor Vinit Mukhija joined the podcast UCLA Housing Voice in a two-episode appearance focused on how American neighborhoods are being reshaped by the addition of living spaces to existing lots. Often unpermitted, these spaces run the gamut from a fully appointed backyard unit to a storage shed used for shelter. Mukhija’s new book, “Remaking the American Dream,” shows how single-family living has been transformed to meet the growing demand for adequate housing. He delves into the issue with podcast hosts Shane Phillips of the UCLA Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies and Paavo Monkkonen, UCLA Luskin professor of urban planning and public policy. Their expansive conversation includes an assessment of state and local government efforts to bring unregulated housing out of the shadows and encourage the construction of permitted accessory dwelling units. Policies that increase housing density, Mukhija says, allow more people to share the American Dream by “sharing single family lots, … sharing neighborhoods, sharing cities, sharing suburbs.”


Monkkonen on Coronado’s Lack of Affordable Housing

Paavo Monkkonen, professor of urban planning and public policy, spoke to the Los Angeles Times about the affordable housing crisis in Coronado, the exclusive island town known for its white sand beaches and luxury resort. To keep Hotel del Coronado running, nearly 200 housekeepers who cannot afford to live in Coronado must commute up to five hours to get to work. State law requires that the city zone for affordable housing, but NIMBYs, a lack of land and local officials’ delaying tactics have stalled progress for years. “Housing delayed is housing denied,” Monkkonen said. “With the urgency of this housing scarcity situation, inaction just makes it worse.” 


Monkkonen on How Tech Companies May Cause Gentrification in Culver City

Paavo Monkkonen, professor of urban planning and public policy, spoke to the Los Angeles Times about Culver City residents who are fighting back against gentrification. As tech giants and streaming studios including Apple, Amazon, HBO and TikTok enter the city, neighborhood tensions flare as locals worry that they may be pushed out. “You have this kind of collective action problem where every small neighborhood or every municipality wants the jobs but not the new housing,” Monkkonen said. “So that pushes people out [with] farther commutes or gentrifying formerly lower-income neighborhoods nearby.” Culver City officials said they are attempting to address the housing issue by zoning for over 3,000 additional housing units by 2029 and enacting rent control ordinances like one from 2020 that caps annual rent increases to 5% for certain residential buildings.


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