Manville Examines Impact of Gentrification on Rent

Urban Planning Associate Professor Michael Manville was featured on KCRW’s “Greater L.A.” in an episode about the impact of housing supply on rent prices. “It’s important to separate this big question of gentrification with the question of what happens to rent,” Manville said. His research has shown that adding to the housing supply lowers nearby rent, but he explained that the trend is “not always easy to see because developers like to build in places where rents are already rising.” Considering neighborhoods where housing demand is already increasing, Manville asked, “Do you want newer residents moving in and displacing residents in the existing housing, or do you want them to be in brand-new housing where, while they will change the neighborhood by their presence, they don’t put as much pressure on the existing housing stock where a lot of the current people live?”

A Case for Removing Minimum Parking Requirements

A Los Angeles Daily News op-ed written by UCLA doctoral student Nolan Gray featured Urban Planning faculty members Donald Shoup and Michael Manville. The piece focused on minimum parking requirements mandating that homes, offices and shops include parking spaces, as well as on Assembly Bill 1401, which would prohibit California cities from imposing these requirements within half a mile of transit — an area where residents, shoppers and employees are least likely to drive. Nolan pointed out that developers already have an incentive to include parking in order to lease or sell a space. Shoup noted that minimum parking requirements are a key culprit in the state’s affordable housing crisis because the cost of including parking gets added to rent and mortgages. Manville added that providing off-road parking is associated with a 27% increase in vehicle miles traveled and a significant increase in emissions, since people are encouraged to buy and drive cars instead of choosing more sustainable transportation options.

Yaroslavsky Urges Action to Uplift the Most Vulnerable

Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin, spoke to KPCC’s AirTalk about findings from the 2021 UCLA Quality of Life Index. The annual survey of Los Angeles County residents showed that 40% suffered a drop in income over the last year as the region was rocked by the COVID-19 pandemic. “Those are the people who are pessimistic, those are the people who are threatened with losing their apartments because they can’t make their rent payment at the end of the month,” said Yaroslavsky, who called on policymakers to prioritize the needs of the most vulnerable. As one example, he noted that office space vacated as businesses downsize after the pandemic is “going to have huge implications for land use.” He asked, “What do you do with that empty office space? Can you repurpose it for housing, for example?” Several media outlets covered the Quality of Life Index, including the Los Angeles Times, KABC7 News and RealClear Politics.

Results of Upzoning Are Limited, Storper Finds

Urban Planning Professor Michael Storper was cited in a Governing article about the affordable housing crisis in the United States. Experts disagree on the best strategy to meet the need for affordable housing. Two years ago, Minneapolis voted to make single-family zoning illegal; Oregon and cities in North Carolina and Northern California have adopted similar measures; and upzoning has been in place in Chicago for more than a decade. So far, these policy changes have had little effect on housing construction, the article noted. “What upzoning did not do in Chicago, and is not likely to do anywhere, is create incentives for housing construction in the areas where middle-class and lower-income people most need it at the prices for which they need it,” Storper said. Changing zoning laws doesn’t mean that developers will choose to build cheap housing, especially when they can build housing for the affluent and pay an alternative fee to an affordable housing fund.

Luskin Summit Focuses on Seizing Opportunity to Address Homelessness

On April 1, a panel of experts gathered for a Luskin Summit webinar about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on unhoused populations in Los Angeles. The event was moderated by Miguel A. Santana, president and CEO of the Weingart Foundation and an emeritus member of the Luskin Board of Advisors. Santana is also chair of the Committee for Greater LA, which produced “No Going Back,” a report on how to build a more equitable Los Angeles. Almost 70,000 people are unhoused in the region, and up to 1.8 million residents lost jobs during the pandemic. Sarah Dusseault, former commission chair of the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, said the pandemic “revealed the depth and breadth of the chronic and severe housing shortage, which has been amplified by failed safety nets, historic housing discrimination and mass incarceration.” She identified homelessness as “a man-made problem that we can address … by creating a system that is effective for everyone with equity at its center.” Jacqueline Waggoner, UCLA alumna and member of the UCLA Luskin Board of Advisors, called for “systems that are driven by data and informed by lived expertise.” Deeper collaboration and more resources, leadership and strategic planning are needed to create efficient systems to address homelessness, she said. Raphael Sonenshein, executive director of the Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs at Cal State L.A., said addressing homelessness requires a shared vision across institutions. “Let’s seize this moment of maximum peril and maximum opportunity to make Los Angeles not a cautionary tale, but a true model,” Sonenshein said. — Zoe Day

Mukhija on New Backyard Homes Project

Professor of Urban Planning Vinit Mukhija spoke to the Los Angeles Times about the launch of the Backyard Homes Project, a new initiative that aims to address the affordable housing crisis in Los Angeles. Accessory dwelling units, or ADUs, are becoming more popular since state regulations have eased. The Backyard Homes Project, led by the nonprofit LA Más, aims to provide homeowners with affordable design and construction of ADUs if they agree to rent the units to Section 8 voucher holders for at least five years. The goal of the program is to confront high housing prices by making ADU rentals affordable and helping low- and moderate-income homeowners become landlords. “We are nowhere near running out of space for housing in most American cities, including L.A.,” said Mukhija, who also serves as a board member at LA Más. He welcomed the incubation of new ideas in a city that’s long been known for advances in residential design. 

To Combat Housing Crisis, ‘We Must Build Up,’ Manville Argues

Architectural Digest spoke to Associate Professor of Urban Planning Michael Manville about Apple’s pledge of $1 billion to address California’s housing crisis — including devoting 40 acres of company-owned property in San Jose to affordable housing. Much of the area is currently zoned for detached single-family homes, a “very inefficient use of valuable land,” Manville said. Increasing the housing stock by allowing for more density would surely face resistance from homeowners who want to preserve the atmosphere of their neighborhoods and the soaring value of their property. However, Manville argued, “if your desire to have your neighborhood remain the same is imposing extremely high costs on other people in the form of high rents, there has to be some give.” He concluded, “Land is finite, but housing is not. … We must build up, so that the same plot of land of one home can accommodate many families. You know, the elevator also exists in Silicon Valley.”


Upzoning Alone Won’t Solve Housing Crisis, Manville Says

Associate Professor of Urban Planning Michael Manville was featured in a Marin Independent Journal article about new design standards for housing in Marin, California. County planning officials will soon unveil the standards, which are intended to preserve the look of the area while complying with state laws mandating denser housing. While changing zoning requirements to allow more units per acre would increase the number of housing units in the county, newly built units would not necessarily be affordable for people with low incomes. “It’s never been the case that you would expect new construction to be affordable to very low income people,” Manville said. The two ways to create affordable housing are through subsidies or by “building housing and letting it get very old,” he explained. While any increase in housing supply in high-demand areas should lower prices across the board, upzoning alone won’t solve the housing crisis, he said. “But you can’t not do it.”

Luskin Summit Breaks Down Housing Injustice

A UCLA Luskin Summit webinar on the exacerbation of housing injustice and mass evictions during the COVID-19 pandemic drew a virtual crowd of more than 400 participants. Moderated by Michael Lens, associate professor of urban planning and public policy, “The Threat of Mass Evictions and an Opportunity to Rethink Housing” was the third segment of this year’s virtual Luskin Summit series. The COVID-19 pandemic has shed light on housing injustice in Los Angeles, with hundreds of thousands of renters facing joblessness, debt and the looming threat of eviction. “When the pandemic is laid upon the current housing crisis, it becomes clear that going back to normal is not enough,” Lens said. “We need a renewed commitment to the subsidization of housing, and we need to allow more homes of all types to be built.” Ananya Roy, professor of urban planning and social welfare, noted that working-class communities of color bear the brunt of evictions. “As billionaires have accumulated massive wealth during the pandemic, renters have accumulated debt,” she said. Housing and community development consultant Sandra McNeill discussed the growth of the Community Land Trust movement, which uses a model of collective land ownership to combat systemic racism and gentrification. “We share a fundamental belief that land and housing should not be treated as a commodity but as a common good,” she said. Marques Vestal, incoming assistant professor of urban planning, argued that this is an opportunity to completely rethink housing policy governance. “If we’re going to talk about housing redevelopment, let’s get creative about it,” Vestal said. — Zoe Day

Lens on Advantages of Community Land Trusts

Associate Professor of Urban Planning and Public Policy Michael Lens spoke to LAist about the prospect of community land trusts (CLTs) as a solution to the affordable housing crisis in California. CLTs are nonprofit organizations that raise money through donations, fundraising and grants to buy affordable housing stock on behalf of a community, protecting the land from speculators and keeping prices low. “It’s a more mission-driven way to acquire land and make it available to be lived on,” Lens explained. Since the CLT retains ownership of the land, residents are protected from sharp increases in rent, Lens noted. Although CLTs are not very common in Los Angeles, many affordable housing advocates have pointed to the model as a solution for preventing displacement and gentrification. “If there’s a significant growth in the number of units that are under CLT frameworks, we’re going to have a larger number of units that are affordable to people,” Lens said.