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Creating ‘Home’ in a City of Renters Panel discussion at UCLA Luskin highlights L.A. rental protections

Amid California’s ongoing housing and affordability crisis, numerous efforts are underway to protect tenants. But, they’re only as good as the enforcement behind them, as was made clear at a recent UCLA Luskin event.

Earlier this year, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed various tenant protections into law, including establishing statewide rent stabilization and just-cause eviction protections, and prohibiting discrimination against tenants with housing vouchers. Locally, other proposals like a right to counsel are being considered.

At the same time, numerous reports of landlords scurrying to evict tenants or drastically raise their rents before the new law goes into effect Jan. 1 have prompted cities across the state to enact emergency moratoriums.

Evictions, tenant protections and enforcement were among the topics at the Nov. 20 event designed to highlight the state’s persistent problem. “Eviction and Code Enforcement: Making Rental Housing ‘Home’” was part of the Housing, Equity and Community Series co-hosted by the UCLA Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies and the Ziman Center for Real Estate.

Speakers included Michael Lens, associate faculty director at the Lewis Center, Chancela Al-Mansour, executive director of Housing Rights Center, and chief inspector Robert Galardi with the Los Angeles Housing and Community Investment Department which oversees multifamily rental units.

Lens, associate professor of urban planning and public policy, said academic research into evictions has not kept pace with community activists.

“This is an area in which advocates and tenants’ rights groups have been working, agitating and talking about the plight of people who have been displaced from their homes for a very long time,” he said.

Part of the reason academia might be behind is that eviction data are hard to come by. “Data is spotty and incomplete. We have some very specific data on evictions that doesn’t give you every type of eviction,” Lens said.

In a forthcoming research paper, Lens and his team reviewed more than 700,000 court-based eviction cases in Southern California between 2005 and 2015 to ascertain what types of neighborhoods see more evictions. They found that neighborhoods with higher populations of African Americans and higher poverty rates saw high rates of eviction.

A separate study currently underway is focusing on two types of evictions in Los Angeles — court-based evictions and no-fault, otherwise known as Ellis Act eviction petitions.

The L.A. study has not produced as consistent a story because Ellis Act evictions are harder to predict, Lens said. Regardless, city and county officials should be monitoring these data on a regular basis to focus on what neighborhoods are seeing growth in evictions, he added.

Al-Mansour of Housing Rights Center helped the audience to understand the human impact of these evictions.

She shared the story of an African American client who had been using Section 8 vouchers for housing for 20 years in South LA. When new owners took over the building, they issued a 90-day eviction notice to everyone using the vouchers. It took her client longer than anticipated to find someplace that would accept her voucher, but she lost her new unit when the paperwork failed to arrive after being mistakenly sent to the old address. She quickly went from living in her car to living on the streets and suffering abuse.

“She’s now suffering from severe mental trauma and will be very, very hard to house,” Al-Mansour said. “If this law would have been in effect 18 months earlier, this wouldn’t have happened.”

Al-Mansour also shared information about various rights held by tenants, including a right to withhold rent to ensure habitable premises. She also discussed a variety of landlord disclosure laws that could nullify a rental contract when violated.

“Oftentimes, people don’t know their rights; they just know something is wrong,” she said, adding that those in the audience should be ambassadors and share what they’re learning with their neighbors and communities.

Los Angeles, where 70% of people rent, has one of the strongest code enforcement programs. Unlike other cities, L.A. enforces penalties against owners for citations and violations.

Started in 1997, the city’s code enforcement program proactively inspects all multifamily rental units in the city every few years.

Galardi gave an overview of the city’s inspection program, which is housed in the Housing and Community Investment Department. More than 100,000 rental properties comprise about 850,000 multifamily rental units in the city. The program’s goal is to inspect each unit once every four years, but the department looks more often at some high-risk units that have had issues and citations during previous inspections, Galardi said.

“The benefit of this program for tenants is that this is a proactive inspection,” Galardi said. “That takes the burden off the tenant in terms of [fear of] retaliation, which is a big concern for renters in the city.”

Code enforcement also builds in follow-up visits to ensure that necessary repairs are addressed by landlords.

As a mechanism of tenant protection, Galardi said code enforcement inspectors are the “boots on the ground going to the units” and raising awareness among tenants about their rights.

To view a recording of the event, visit the Lewis Center’s YouTube page.

View additional photos on the UCLA Luskin Flickr channel:

 

Housing, Equity and Community Series

Pierce on Southern California Desalination Plant

Gregory Pierce, adjunct professor of urban planning and associate director of research at the Luskin Center for Innovation, wrote an opinion piece for the Press-Telegram about water affordability in Southern California. The West Basin Municipal Water District is considering building a desalination plant whose cost would be shared among residents of the 17 cities it serves. Upon examining an environmental impact report, Pierce found that the project is seeking approval without releasing a rate study that would determine how to allocate the cost. “Before greenlighting a half-billion-dollar (or more) desalination plant, West Basin should be looking at all its options to effectively increase available water supply,” Pierce argued. “I hope they take their responsibility to deliver on California’s Human Right to Water law seriously, and only make a decision when they can fully demonstrate that the desalination project would not make its water unaffordable for the region’s working-class residents.”


 

Storper Challenges Blanket Upzoning as Solution to Housing Crisis

A Planning Report article featured Urban Planning Professor Michael Storper‘s latest research challenging blanket upzoning and the “housing as opportunity” school of thought. Upzoning has been proposed as a solution to the affordable housing crisis, aiming to increase supply and affordability through trickle-down economics. According to Storper, UCLA Luskin’s distinguished professor of regional and international development in urban planning, “Blanket upzoning is a blunt instrument, whereas people’s housing needs are diverse.” Storper highlights the unintended consequences of upzoning, which “favors those who can pay the price of housing in high-demand areas,” while the trickle-down effect to middle-class and lower-income people “will be small and could even be negative in highly desirable areas.” Storper concludes, “Affordability has to be tackled directly; it’s not going to be created through aggregate supply and trickle-down.” Storper’s comments were cited on Planetizen, the Berkeley Daily Planet, CityWatchLA, Fox&Hounds and other outlets.


‘Unequal Cities’ Conference Highlights Housing Research The multiday event in Los Angeles launches a global research network supported by the National Science Foundation that will unite scholars concerned with housing justice

By Les Dunseith

UCLA Luskin’s Ananya Roy opened a multiple-day conference convened by the Institute on Inequality and Democracy at UCLA Luskin by stressing a desire to shift people’s thinking beyond the pragmatic concerns of a “housing crisis” to the broader theme of “housing justice” and what that means to society on a global scale.

“Our present historical conjuncture is marked by visible manifestations of the obscene social inequality that is today’s housing crisis, the juxtaposition of the $238-million New York penthouse recently purchased by a hedge fund manager for occasional use, to the tent cities in which the houseless must find durable shelter,” said Roy, a professor of urban planning, social welfare and geography who also serves as director of the Institute.

The setting for those remarks on Jan. 31, 2019, was particularly poignant — just outside, homeless people huddled on a cold and damp evening in tents lining the Skid Row streets surrounding the headquarters of the Los Angeles Community Action Network (LA CAN). Inside, a standing-room-only crowd of about 150 students, scholars, community organizers, housing experts and other stakeholders gathered to hear Roy and other speakers talk about the inadequate supply of affordable housing in California and around the world, and the cultural, political and economic barriers that undermine solutions.

“The fault lines have shifted,” Pete White, executive director and founder of LA CAN, told the audience. “We are now fighting the wholesale financialization of housing.”

The event in downtown Los Angeles and a full day of presentations that followed the next day on the UCLA campus was titled “Housing Justice in Unequal Cities,” and it signified the launch of a global research network of the same name supported by the National Science Foundation. With partners from India, Brazil, South Africa, Spain and across the United States, the network aims to bring together organizations, individuals and ideas around the creation of housing access and housing justice through legal frameworks, cooperative models of land and housing, and community organizing.

Roy said the Institute on Inequality and Democracy views the network as “exemplifying our commitment to address the displacements and dispossessions — what we call the urban color-lines — of our times.”

By partnering with community-based organizations such as LA CAN, “we situate housing justice in the long struggle for freedom on occupied, colonized, stolen land,” Roy told attendees.

The Housing Justice in Unequal Cities Network will bring together research and curriculum collaborations, data working groups, summer institutes, publishing projects and more. Roy said the network will unite movement-based and university-based scholars concerned with housing justice.

The effort also will build upon “an extraordinary proliferation of housing movements, policy experiments and alternative housing models,” Roy said. “This energy crackles all around us here in Los Angeles and it animates the work of the speakers at this conference.”

Over the course of the first evening and the full day of programming that followed, conference participants heard from a variety of speakers from UCLA, across the country and around the world — several of whom traveled from their home countries to be in attendance. The opening night included talks by James DeFilippis of Rutgers University, Maria Kaïka of University of Amsterdam, Erin McElroy of the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project and Keisha-Khan Y. Perry of Brown University.

Kickoff event attendees also were treated to music, with UCLA Luskin’s urban planning student Caroline Calderon serving as DJ, and listened to a riveting spoken-word performance by poet Taalam Acey.

“A man is judged by what’s in his soul and what is in his heart … not just what is in his pocket,” Acey said.

The second day of the event attracted a crowd of about 250 people and focused primarily on current research related to housing justice. Speakers pointed out that housing equity goes well beyond the extremes of homeownership and homelessness to include the experience of renters as well.

“Renters are powerful contributors and creators of their communities,” noted Sarah Treuhaft of PolicyLink.

According to Tracy Jeanne Rosenthal of the Los Angeles Tenants Union, “We don’t have a housing crisis, we have a tenants’ rights crisis.”

Additional speakers at the conference included UCLA Luskin’s Michael Lens, associate professor of urban planning and public policy; UCLA Luskin graduate students Terra Graziani and Hilary Malson; Gautam Bhan of the Indian Institute for Human Settlements; Nicholas Blomley of Simon Fraser University; Nik Heynen of University of Georgia; Toussaint Losier of University of Massachusetts, Amherst; Sophie Oldfield of University of Cape Town; Laura Pulido of University of Oregon; Raquel Rolnik of University of São Paulo (via video); Tony Roshan Samara of Urban Habitat; Desiree Fields of University of Sheffield; and former UCLA Luskin Urban Planning faculty member Gilda Haas of LA Co-op Lab.

Those interested in finding out more and getting involved in the effort are encouraged to sign up to receive housing justice reports and updates about community action and events: join the network.

View additional photos from the conference on Flickr.

Institute on Inequality & Democracy - Housing Justice in #UnequalCities

Manville, Monkkonen Investigate Roots of Animosity Toward Housing Developers

UCLA associate professors Michael Manville and Paavo Monkkonen were recently featured in an article on Sightline highlighting their research on neighborhood opposition to new building. Even more than perceived harm and self-interest, Manville and Monkkonen found that “the most powerful opposition frame is about the developer,” specifically when a developer “is likely to earn a large profit from the building.” Despite the apparent motivation to “enforce community norms of fairness” by reining in developers who strive to maximize personal profits, Manville and Monkkonen note the potential flaws of this approach. Manville and Monkkonen illustrate the potentially “vicious cycle of regulation and resentment” as a result of anti-developer attitudes in which “punishing developers … [risks] thwarting affordability, punishing people who need homes, [and] discouraging all but the least likable, deepest-pocketed and most aggressive developers from building.” Despite the foundations of a moral argument against profit-driven developers, Manville and Monkkonen propose a shift in focus to the accessibility and affordability of “homes of all shapes and sizes [for] neighbors of all income levels.”


Rising Housing Costs Cause Serious Concerns — Especially for Young People — New UCLA Luskin Survey Finds Third annual Los Angeles County Quality of Life Index reflects impact of skyrocketing home prices on the lives of residents

By George Foulsham

More than half of Los Angeles County residents — especially those under the age of 50 —are worried that they might have to move because of the rising costs of housing in the region. This is one of the key findings in the 2018 Quality of Life Index (QLI), a project of the UCLA Luskin Los Angeles Initiative and The California Endowment.

Zev Yaroslavsky

The QLI is an annual survey that asks Los Angeles County residents to rate their quality of life in nine different categories and to answer specific standalone questions on important issues facing them and the Los Angeles region.

Housing-related concerns are among the major findings in this year’s survey. When respondents were asked whether they, a close friend or family member has considered moving from their neighborhood in the last few years because of rising housing costs, 55 percent answered in the affirmative — a percentage increase of 8 over last year’s survey.

Among younger respondents, that number soars. Sixty-eight percent of 18-29-year-olds, 73 percent of 30-39-year-olds, and 65 percent of 40-49-year-olds say that they or someone close to them has considered moving out of their neighborhoods due to housing costs.

“It is troubling that younger county residents are less hopeful and less positive about their quality of life in Los Angeles,” said Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs. “Historically, young people, especially in Los Angeles, could look forward to a great future, but today they have the highest level of negativity and anxiety, especially between the ages of 18-29. This should be a matter of concern to all of us.”

Survey respondents are asked to rate their quality of life on a scale of 10-100 in nine different categories and 40 subcategories. This year, the overall rating among all nine issues was 56, a drop from 59 in the first two years of the survey in 2016 and 2017. All nine categories experienced a more negative rating this year over last year, and most have continuously declined since 2016.

The lowest-ranked categories of cost of living, education, and transportation and traffic lost an average 7 points since 2016, and the highest-ranked categories of ethnic and race relations, your neighborhood and health care lost an average 3 points. In the middle tier, two of the three categories lost ground (public safety and the environment), while the ranking for jobs and the economy improved (see chart).

On the positive side, health care, race/ethnic relations and quality of respondents’ neighborhoods received the highest ranking — in all three cases a 67 on the scale, well above the midpoint. The most pronounced drops since 2016 were in cost of living, where the rating dropped from 50 to 43, education from 54 to 48, and transportation/traffic from 58 to 50.

Other key findings of the QLI include:

Twenty-seven percent of county residents have worried about becoming homeless, an increase of 4 percent over last year. Among residents with an annual household income of less than $30,000 that number jumps to 47 percent; among residents 18-29 years of age that number jumps to 38 percent; and among renters that number jumps to 41 percent.

Seventy-one percent of county residents favor rent stabilization legislation that would cap annual rent increases on all rental housing, including 78 percent of renters and 65 percent of homeowners.

Sixty-eight percent of county residents think new apartment buildings should only be built in neighborhoods already zoned for multi-family housing, and only 30 percent believe they should be built everywhere, including in single-family neighborhoods.

Nearly 60 percent of residents say that local police should refuse to help federal immigration authorities in the deportation of undocumented residents, even if cities could lose federal funds, while 38 percent believe local police should cooperate with federal authorities.

Residents continue to be split on the impacts of new development and growth in their community, with 44 percent saying it has a positive impact on their area and 52 percent saying it has a negative impact. However, the negative responses jump to 59 percent for those with annual household incomes below $30,000, and to 54 percent for those with annual household incomes of $30,000-$60,000, reflecting the challenges of gentrification in many low-income Los Angeles communities.

The number of residents who worry about themselves, a member of their family or a close friend being deported from the United States dropped to 23 percent this year from 37 percent last year. The drop in anxiety over deportation dropped nearly 50 percent among Latinos and Asian/Pacific Islanders. However, among those who are worried about deportation, 71 percent are worried that enrolling in a government program would increase their risk of deportation.

“While there is still a significant anxiety level over deportation in this survey, it is clear that in the last year that level has subsided,” Yaroslavsky said. “Court decisions and legislative efforts aimed at blocking the Trump administration’s immigration policies have clearly been reassuring, especially to our immigrant communities, but there is still an unhealthy level of fear in those same communities.”

The UCLA Luskin Quality of Life Index survey is based on interviews conducted with nearly 1,500 county residents from March 3-20, 2018. Interviews were conducted in both English and Spanish.

The QLI was prepared in partnership with the public opinion research firm Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates.

Download the 2018 QLI (PDF)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Review the data (PDF)

 

Summary Narrative (PDF)