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Storper on the ‘Deeply Flawed’ Senate Bill 50

Michael Storper, distinguished professor of regional and international development in urban planning, spoke to Politifact for an article on claims supporting and opposing controversial Senate Bill 50. The bill would require cities and counties to allow higher-density housing near job and transit centers. Proponents say it would ease the state’s affordable housing crisis; opponents say it would spur gentrification and overcrowd suburban neighborhoods. Storper said SB 50 is based on a “deeply flawed” analysis of what it would take to solve the state’s housing crisis. He said there is some truth to claims that SB 50 would create more luxury housing units. Existing zoning laws in California already permit millions of potential new housing units, but developers choose to build where they know they can make a profit, he said. Under SB 50, he said, developers would be inclined to target wealthy areas and “produce housing at price points that are only accessible to higher-income people.”


 

Lens on Surprising Decline in Evictions

Michael Lens, associate professor of urban planning and public policy, spoke to CalMatters for a story about a California housing crisis mystery: There has been a major run-up in rents, and delinquent payments are the most common reason a landlord sues to remove tenants from their property. Yet the state has seen an unexpected decline in eviction filings. The article cited Lens’ research into what made one Southern California neighborhood more likely than another to see landlords initiate formal evictions, with surprising findings on the impact of gentrification. “The conventional wisdom is that landlords will be more aggressive in trying to push people out … when they think they can get somebody who will pay more,” Lens said. “But that’s not what we find, on the court side of things.” Instead the factors that had a strong correlation with eviction filings were whether a neighborhood was very poor or was largely African American, Lens found.

image of tent encampment outside a new building construction in Hollywood

Monkkonen on Southern California’s Task to Build 1.3 Million New Homes

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.


 

Land Is Finite, but Housing Is Not, Manville Says

Michael Manville, associate professor of urban planning, spoke to Architectural Digest about Apple’s announcement that it would invest $2.5 billion to address California’s housing crisis. The plan includes converting a 40-acre plot of land the company owns in San Jose into space for affordable housing. Manville said much of San Jose is reserved for detached single-family homes, “making for very inefficient use of valuable land.” Residents may be hesitant to change zoning rules because they like how their neighborhood looks or the fact that their house has tripled in value, Manville said. But he urged, “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.” The alternative, he said, is a place that has the economy of a megacity and built environment of a suburb, “and that’s simply not sustainable.” Manville concluded, “Land is finite, but housing is not.”


 

Yaroslavsky on Frustrations Over Combating Homelessness

Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin, spoke with KCRW’s Press Play shortly after President Trump criticized California cities for the spread of homelessness during a trip to the state. Yaroslavsky took issue with Trump “coming in here and lecturing to us about what’s wrong with our housing policy,” saying several of the administration’s actions are responsible for pushing citizens onto the streets. He also said the root of homelessness is income inequality, not the availability of housing units. “The bottom line is this: We have an affordable housing crisis. We don’t have a market-rate housing crisis.” Yaroslavsky argued against loosening rules on zoning and development. “The proposals that have come out of Sacramento to eliminate the single-family homes and the duplex zones and the quadruplex zones in the city and allow seven-story massive apartment buildings with no parking is not the answer,” he said. “The people who are squeezed in this housing environment are people who are of low and moderate income, and that’s 40 to 45 percent of the city.”

Mukhija on Empowering Homeowners to Ease the Housing Crisis

Urban Planning Professor Vinit Mukhija argued for loosening restrictions on “granny flats” and other accessory dwelling units in a Sacramento Bee opinion piece co-authored with state Sen. Bob Wieckowski (D-Fremont). As a result of legislative reforms that went into effect in 2017, applications from homeowners who want to build basement apartments, backyard cottages, garage conversions or upstairs additions are up across the state. These units, just one element of a broader strategy needed to ease the state’s housing crunch, are “the low-hanging fruit for cities seeking a quick and inexpensive way to increase housing,” the authors wrote. They urged Californians to support Senate Bill 13, which would reduce fees levied on homeowners, loosen owner occupancy requirements and strengthen state oversight of local ordinances. In addition to relieving the housing crisis, the authors wrote, “homeowners can generate rental income that provides much-needed financial security, especially for seniors who may be house rich but cash poor.”


 

Mukhija on Meeting Affordable Housing Needs

Urban Planning Chair Vinit Mukhija held a wide-ranging dialogue about affordable housing with state Sen. Bob Wieckowski (D-Fremont) on the podcast Then There’s California. Mukhija’s research focuses on informal, makeshift housing in the United States and abroad. He has studied slums, border areas and farmworker dwellings but noted that unregulated and unpermitted shelter is becoming more commonplace in cities and suburbs. Wieckowski has sponsored legislation to remove barriers to the creation of granny flats, garage conversions and other so-called accessory dwelling units. “This can be a very reasonable way of adding housing supply from our existing physical resources,” Mukhija said. In addition to addressing the growing demand for affordable housing, regulated accessory dwelling units can bring in significant property tax revenues, he added.


 

Man standing in unfinished garage

Garage Conversions Could Ease California Housing Crisis

Three UCLA Luskin-affiliated urban planning scholars co-authored a CityLab piece on single-car garage conversions as a way to ease the California housing crisis. The authors — Urban Planning Chair and Professor Vinit Mukhija, Distinguished Research Professor Donald Shoup and Anne Brown MURP ’14 Ph.D. ’18, an assistant professor of planning and policy at the University of Oregon — argued that homeowners should convert their garages into an apartment or accessory dwelling unit (ADU) to create more affordable housing in California. “Garage apartments create horizontal, distributed and almost invisible density, instead of vertical, concentrated and obvious density,” they argued. These units not only create more affordable housing but provide new avenues of income for homeowners and more secure neighborhoods, they wrote. “America can reduce the homelessness problem with a simple acknowledgment: Garages would be much more valuable for people than for cars,” the authors concluded.