A 2018 article about anti-development attitudes, authored by UCLA Luskin’s Paavo Monkkonen and Michael Manville, is mentioned by the Libertarian magazine Reason in an essay that focuses on the propensity of Hollywood to portray real estate developers as bad guys. The essay traces the movie trope of an evil developer as far back as Frank Capra and his Depression-era movies like the 1946 Christmas classic, “It’s a Wonderful Life.” That movie presents one of the best-known rich-guy villains in movie history: Mr. Potter. Such characters reflect circumstances explored by Manville and Monkkonen when they wrote about how the high cost of land and the complexity of regulations can make real estate development difficult. Reason quotes directly from the UCLA article, saying, “These circumstances could select for developers who are both affluent and out-of-step with conventional ways of behaving: Only deep-pocketed, hard-charging and confrontational people will be willing and able to lobby elected officials and get rules changed in order to build.”
The Culver City News spotlighted UCLA Luskin student research on housing, infrastructure and traffic in Culver City. Graduate students affiliated with the Lewis Center for Regional Studies published six reports on a variety of issues facing the city, under the supervision of Paavo Monkkonen, associate professor of urban planning and public policy. The first paper, “Advancing Community Engagement in Culver City,” highlighted the failure of many projects within the city to truly engage the community with planning and development. Citing five projects as case studies, the student researchers found that time restrictions and lack of funds were common barriers to inclusiveness. The researchers recommended the formation of a community engagement team and outreach plan to widen the participation of citizens in the city’s projects.
Paavo Monkkonen, associate professor of urban planning and public policy, spoke to the Los Angeles Times about the impact of gentrification and pandemic on the eclectic arts and music scene in Highland Park. The COVID-19 lockdown has devastated the northeast Los Angeles neighborhood and widened the divide between old-school and upstart artists. “You see a correlation between gentrifiers maintaining their income and lower-income people losing it,” Monkkonen said. SB1410, a pending state bill offering landlords tax breaks for forgiving rent, might help keep tenants of all sorts in place, he said. But real estate speculation and further gentrification remain real possibilities, he said. “There’s a big concern that mom-and-pop landlords will decide they don’t want to deal with tenants who can’t pay, and sell their buildings,” Monkkonen said. “Times of crisis are good times to buy, and a lot of these distressed properties are bought up by private equity.”
An American Planning Association blog post broke down the main arguments made by Associate Professors Michael Manville, Paavo Monkkonen and Michael Lens in their collaborative piece “It’s Time to End Single-Family Zoning.” The article was one of several commentaries by academics and practicing planners included in the January issue of the Journal of the American Planning Association, which focused on the debate over single-family zoning. Manville, Monkkonen and Lens traced single-family zoning’s “racist and classist history” through Supreme Court decisions including Buchanan v. Warley (1917) and Village of Euclid v. Ambler Realty Co. (1926). The impact of these century-old decisions can still be seen in the racial and class makeup of cities in the United States, they said. Arguing that socioeconomic and racial inequality and transportation inefficiency are exacerbated by the single-family classification, they called on planners to lead the charge to change the zoning laws.
Alternative and affordable housing served as the topic of the 16th annual UCLA Luskin Day on Feb. 21 at Los Angeles City Hall. VC Powe, organizer and executive director of external programs and career services, said 15 students made the trip downtown to discuss this year’s pressing urban social policy issue with city and county leaders. During the day, co-sponsored by UCLA Government and Community Relations, graduate students from all three master’s programs met with Paul Koretz of Council District 5 and heard from Alisa Orduña, senior advisor on homelessness to Santa Monica’s city manager. The students also met with Luskin alumni and broke into teams to interview representatives of local leadership, business and nonprofit organizations that address affordable housing issues in Los Angeles. “The housing issue is definitely something that I came to the program to really try to work and understand a bit more,” said Gerrlyn Gacao, a first-year student studying urban planning. “For me, this experience is about learning first-hand from leaders that are working in the field and throughout the city.” As a first-year social welfare student, Ashley Farnan focuses on seniors. “I’m waking up to the reality of the rising rates of homelessness among seniors and the total lack of affordable housing. … I recognize that I need to be part of the policy conversation.” Associate Professor Paavo Monkkonen served as faculty advisor for the day and will work with students to provide a written memorandum on ways to fund homeless or permanent supportive housing based on the stakeholder interviews.
View more photos from the day on Flickr:
A new Sidewalk Talk article on Medium highlighted the main points of a paper written by Associate Professors of Urban Planning Michael Manville, Paavo Monkkonen and Michael Lens arguing for the elimination of single-family housing regulations. The three associate professors wrote the essay for the January issue of the Journal of the American Planning Association, which presented nine different arguments about the future of single-family zoning. The debate over single-family zoning has been fueled by new bills in Maryland, Oregon, Minneapolis and California that have proposed loosening single-family regulations, with limited success. In their paper, Manville, Monkkonen and Lens argue that removing single-family zoning doesn’t prevent single-family homes from being built; this means that developers can continue to build them in response to household preference and market demands. However, “in the 21st century, no city should have any land where nothing can be built except a detached single-family home,” they conclude.
Paavo Monkkonen, associate professor of urban planning and public policy, spoke to LAist about Southern California’s commitment to plan 1.3 million new homes by 2029. The Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) originally planned to concentrate housing in the Inland Empire rather than in wealthy, coastal communities. Monkkonen said the original methodology, which relied on population projections, rewarded cities that have historically resisted new housing. Without new construction, a city’s population cannot grow; as a result, restrictive zoning in the past led to less zoning for homes in the future. “Cities that don’t want housing were able to project very low growth and get a very low housing number,” Monkkonen said. SCAG ultimately adopted an alternative plan that places more homes near major job centers and transit lines. The state’s housing department will review the plan, which will be finalized next year.
An opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times juxtaposed a Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) plan to meet housing construction requirements with recommendations from Paavo Monkkonen, associate professor of urban planning and public policy. Gov. Gavin Newsom promised to combat the affordable housing crisis in California with construction of 1.3 million new units of housing. The op-ed, written by the managing director of Abundant Housing L.A., accused the SCAG plan of “disproportionately dumping housing into the sprawling exurbs” while leaving wealthy cities with massive job pools alone. Critics say the SCAG plan will create a housing and jobs imbalance that will lengthen commutes and lead to an increase in greenhouse gas emissions. Working with Monkkonen, Abundant Housing L.A. researchers built a different model for distributing housing requirements that minimizes sprawl, prioritizes accessibility to transit and creates affordable housing where people want to live and have opportunities to work, the op-ed said.
Paavo Monkkonen, associate professor of urban planning and public policy, spoke to Curbed LA about the availability of affordable housing for moderate-income people in Los Angeles. Many residents must pay a burdensome price for shelter yet do not qualify for affordable housing because their annual income surpasses the $56,000 threshold. The Los Angeles City Council voted to examine why there is a shortage of housing options for these people. Monkkonen argued that studying the restraints on moderate-income housing development could lead to city policies that make it easier to develop more housing in the city. He said policymakers and the public believe only certain types of housing need to be built. More housing in general is needed, he said. “All multifamily housing getting built quicker would help everyone, including middle-income residents,” he says.
Paavo Monkkonen is Associate Professor of Urban Planning and Public Policy at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, director of the Latin American Cities Initiative and Faculty Cluster Leader for the Global Public Affairs Initiative. Paavo researches and writes on the ways policies and markets shape urbanization and social segregation in cities around the world. His scholarship ranges from studies of large-scale national housing finance programs to analysis of local land use regulations and property rights institutions. Past and ongoing comparative research on socioeconomic segregation and land markets spans several countries including Argentina, Brazil, China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, and the United States. Paavo continues to work as a consultant on national housing and urban policy in Mexico, where he has various long-term research projects.
At UCLA Luskin, Paavo teaches courses on housing markets and policy, applied microeconomics, research methods, and global urban segregation. He recently launched the Latin American Cities Initiative, Ciudades, an effort to develop and deepen knowledge networks among students, educators, and professionals in the arena of urban planning and policy in South, Central, and North America. One of the initiative’s core components is an international planning studio in Latin America (past studio reports available here).
Professor Monkkonen’s research has been published in outlets such as the Journal of the American Planning Association, the International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, the Journal of Urban Economics, Regional Science and Urban Economics, Urban Studies, World Development, and the Journal of Peasant Studies. He has received research funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Urban Land Institute, the Regional Studies Association, and the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy. His current projects include an analysis of the implementation of an Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing law in California, a comparison of how higher levels of government shape planning processes in California and Mexico, and comparative research on urban spatial structure.
Paavo completed a Master of Public Policy at the School of Public Affairs at the University of California, Los Angeles, and a PhD in City and Regional Planning at the University of California, Berkeley. He was previously Assistant Professor of Urban Planning at the University of Hong Kong from 2009 to 2012, and visiting scholar at the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico in 2015.
SELECTED BOOKS & PUBLICATIONS
Unwanted Housing: Localism and Politics of Housing Development. Manville, Michael, and Paavo Monkkonen. 2021. Journal of Planning Education and Research, forthcoming.
Opposition to Development or Opposition to Developers? Experimental Evidence on Attitudes towards New Housing. Monkkonen, Paavo, and Michael Manville. 2019. Journal of Urban Affairs, 41(8): 1123-1141.
Empty Houses across North America: Housing Finance and Mexico’s Vacancy Crisis. Monkkonen, Paavo. 2019. Urban Studies, 57(10): 2080-2097.
Urban Sprawl and the Growing Geographic Scale of Segregation in Mexico, 1990-2010. Monkkonen, Paavo, Jorge Montejano Escamilla, Erick Guerra, and Andre Comandon. 2018. Habitat International, 73 89-95.
Understanding and Challenging Opposition to Housing Construction in California’s Urban Areas Monkkonen, Paavo. 2016. University of California Center Sacramento.
Where are property rights worth more? Assessing variation in the value of deeds across cities in Mexico Monkkonen, Paavo. 2016. World Development, 88, 67-78.
Do Strict Land Use Regulations make Metropolitan Areas more Segregated by Income? Michael Lens and Paavo Monkkonen. 2016. Journal of the American Planning Association, 82(1): 6-21.
How Economic Development Shapes Household Structure and the Age of Leaving Home and Household Formation: Evidence from 67 countries Monkkonen, Paavo. 2015. UCLA Ziman Center Working Paper 2015-07.
Land Use Regulations and the Value of Land and Housing: An Intra-Metropolitan Analysis Kok, Nils, Paavo Monkkonen and John M. Quigley. 2014. Journal of Urban Economics, 81(3): 136–148.
Innovative Measurement of Spatial Segregation: Comparative Evidence from Hong Kong and San Francisco. Monkkonen, Paavo and Xiaohu Zhang. 2014. Regional Science and Urban Economics, 47(3): 99-11.
Land Use Regulations, Compliance, and Land Markets in Argentina Monkkonen, Paavo and Lucas Roconi. 2013. Urban Studies, 50(10): 1951-1969.
Housing Finance Reform and Increasing Socioeconomic Segregation in Mexico Monkkonen, Paavo. 2012. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 36(4): 757-772.
Economic Restructuring, Urban Growth, and Short-term Trades: The Spatial Dynamics of the Hong Kong Housing Market, 1992-2008 Monkkonen, Paavo, Kelvin SK Wong, and Jaclene Begley. 2012. Regional Science and Urban Economics, 42(3): 396-406.
The Demand for Land Regularization: Theory and Evidence from Tijuana, Mexico Monkkonen, Paavo. 2012. Urban Studies, 49(2): 270-287.
The Housing Transition in Mexico: Expanding Access to Housing Finance Monkkonen, Paavo. 2011. Urban Affairs Review, 47(5): 672-695.