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Taylor Weighs In on the Broken Dreams of Bedroom Communities

UCLA Luskin’s Brian Taylor lent his expertise in housing and transportation to a KPCC story on the broken dreams of America’s mid-century suburbs. The story focused on Lakewood, a bedroom community that epitomized the good life in California when it was developed in the 1950s. Since then, nearby industries have collapsed and traffic congestion has become acute. “We don’t build the housing we need, then we have huge ramp-ups in housing costs, which has big economic impacts and means people often live much farther from where they would like to, which makes the traffic worse,” said Taylor, professor of urban planning and director of the Institute of Transportation Studies. What California needs, he said, is more housing in areas closer to jobs, rather than the exurban sprawl that has compounded the problem. The story also aired on American Public Media’s “Marketplace,” beginning at the 9-minute mark.


 

Maps Show Gentrification, Displacement Policies

The Center for Neighborhood Knowledge (CNK) at UCLA Luskin has updated its website to offer two important online resources: an inventory and map of anti-displacement policies in Los Angeles County, and a map of neighborhood change and gentrification in Southern California. The map of anti-displacement policies utilizes data collected between February and May of 2018, and it reflects CNK’s first step to highlight and better understand the policies that can promote affordability or mitigate displacement of vulnerable populations in gentrifying neighborhoods. Among the findings is the fact that despite a wide range of anti-displacement policies and strategies in Los Angeles County, their coverage is fragmented and implementation is not equitably distributed across jurisdictions. CNK’s urban displacement map reflects an update to a resource first provided in 2016. It focuses on understanding where neighborhood transformations are occurring and helps identify areas that are vulnerable to gentrification and displacement in both transit and non-transit neighborhoods. One of the key findings in this update is that the number of gentrified neighborhoods (based on census tracts) rose by 16 percent in Los Angeles County between 1990 and 2015.

 

Lens Is Interviewed About Expo Line Upzoning

In an on-air interview for the “Take Two” program on KPCC, UCLA Luskin’s Michael Lens talked about L.A.’s Planning and Land Use Management Committee (PLUM), which has recommended that the City Council adopt a proposal to re-zone property along the Expo Line. “Upzoning” the transportation corridor could mean taller, more dense housing units. Although upzoning isn’t always popular, it can lower the cost of housing through supply and demand economics. To listen to Lens’ interview, scrub forward to the 12:45-minute mark of the show.


 

In Wake of Recent Celebrity Suicides, Kaplan Appears on Radio Panel

Professor of Social Welfare Mark S. Kaplan joined other experts in a recent KPCC broadcast following recent high-profile suicides that included celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain and designer Kate Spade. “Suicide is a remarkable public health issue because it is to some extent a hidden problem and in some cases almost a hidden epidemic. … And it is a remarkable problem because it is also associated with firearms,” said Kaplan, who studies suicide risk among vulnerable populations. Kaplan noted that of the approximately 45,000 yearly suicide deaths, half involve the use of firearms.


 

Curbed L.A. Seeks Out Monkkonen for Comment on Development Near Expo Line

A new Expo Line plan to allow higher density residential development around five Westside stations may provide an important example of how to approach the city’s housing crisis, according to Paavo Monkkonen, associate professor of urban planning. “Look at how often a single-family home sells on a block. You’ll have a gradual change, not some crazy transition overnight,” Monkkonen said about the Exposition Corridor Transit Neighborhood Plan. “But we need some proof-of-concept model because it has never happened, really.”


 

The Rent is Too Damn High: A Forum on L.A.’s Housing Crisis Skyrocketing costs and politics of supply are focus of UCLA Lewis Center’s 11th annual Downtown Los Angeles Forum

By Stan Paul

“Too Much and Not Enough” is a recipe for a crisis when it comes to rising rents and lack of available and affordable housing in Los Angeles County.

It also was an apt title of the UCLA Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies’ 11th annual Downtown Los Angeles Forum on Transportation, Land Use and the Environment, held May 18, 2018, at the California Endowment.

“The short story is the rent has been getting ‘too damn high’ for decades, and renter wages have not kept up,” said moderator Michael Lens, associate professor of urban planning and public policy at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs.

In the last few years, a threshold has been crossed as “more and more households cannot really bear the rising costs of rent,” Lens said, launching a day of debate and discussion on a nationwide problem that is acutely felt in the L.A. region, which is also beset by chronic homelessness.

Experts representing academia, government and nonprofit organizations, as well as community stakeholders, came together to discuss problems, barriers and solutions to the multifaceted issue of affordable housing.

“Research is pretty unequivocal that increasing housing supply is necessary to stabilize prices,” Lens said, but there is less certainty about what happens in neighborhoods that receive new housing supply or investment. “Neighborhood dynamics certainly complicate any of our policy options or choices and solutions for increasing housing affordability,” said Lens, who also serves as associate faculty director for the Lewis Center.

‘If we want to stem the pipeline of people moving onto our streets, we have to come up with solutions that keep people in place, and that’s a moral issue, it’s a humanitarian issue, and it doesn’t rest with individual owners, it rests with all of us.’

— Panelist Jacqueline Waggoner

Paavo Monkkonen, associate professor of public policy and urban planning at UCLA, led the first panel of speakers, who looked at the causes and effects of the crisis from a variety of perspectives.

Panelists included Isela Gracian, president of the East LA Community Corporation; Robin Hughes, president and CEO of Abode Communities; Shane Phillips, director of public policy at the Central City Association; and Carolina Reid, assistant professor of city and regional planning at UC Berkeley.

“We can’t build affordable housing fast enough to meet the need,” said Reid, adding that “we don’t have a system where we can hold cities accountable for how much housing they’re producing to meet growing housing demand.”

Since 2000, half of L.A. neighborhoods built no housing at all, according to Reid. Citing gentrification pressures at the urban core, she said neighborhoods with the best transit access are building the fewest affordable housing units.

“Planning isn’t helping,” she added, noting that California cities continue to include minimum lot sizes and restrictive zoning. Compounding the problem are lengthy permitting and regulatory requirements along with strong public opposition to some affordable housing projects.

A second panel, led by Lens, addressed the politics of supply and evaluated possible solutions. Panelists were Becky Dennison, executive director of Venice Community Housing; Jackelyn Hwang, assistant professor of sociology at Stanford University; Jacqueline Waggoner, vice president and Southern California market leader for Enterprise Community Foundation; and Ben Winter, housing policy specialist with the Office of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.

Hwang weighed the pros and cons of rent control. She cited research showing that landlords do take advantage of “perverse incentives,” such as converting units to condos to become exempt from rent control — and consequently decreasing rental housing supply. But rent control also protects tenants, she said, noting that it encourages longer-term and elderly residents to stay in place, protecting them from displacement.

“I think the takeaway from the study is it puts too much power in the hands of landlords,” she said.  “I think there are ways to have rent control and maybe we can think of more creative ways on how it’s implemented.”

Waggoner is a proponent of rent control but said the strategy should be regional and not just within the city. “If we want to stem the pipeline of people moving onto our streets, we have to come up with solutions that keep people in place, and that’s a moral issue, it’s a humanitarian issue, and it doesn’t rest with individual owners, it rests with all of us,” she said.

Keynote speaker Kathy Nyland made her point succinctly: “Put people first, share the power, and let people be part of the solution.”

As director of Seattle’s Department of Neighborhoods, Nyland oversaw the overhaul of the neighborhood council system to emphasize inclusive outreach, equity and community engagement. She said she has looked at affordable housing from several vantage points, having also served as chief of staff to a Seattle City Council member and as a senior policy advisor to the city’s mayor.

Audience members had the opportunity to join the discussion, during the panels and at a reception that followed the conference.One of them was Tham Nguyen, a 2005 alumna of the Luskin Urban Planning master’s program, who is now a senior manager in transportation planning for LA Metro’s Office of Extraordinary Innovation.

“It’s certainly a very important component of transportation, looking at the housing and land use aspect,” Nguyen said. “This is a really great learning experience to see the conversations that are happening and unfolding around affordable housing.”

Brian Taylor, professor of urban planning and outgoing director of the Lewis Center, closed the conference with this observation: “I thought transportation planning was complicated, but you’ve got me humbled here.”

Taylor, who also serves as director of the Institute of Transportation Studies at UCLA Luskin, said he often hears comments that emphasize both connections and contradictions in transportation: “Traffic is terrible. We have to stop development. Let’s build a lot of rail and have transit-oriented development, but we’re really worried about gentrification.”

While the “enormously complex” affordable housing crisis has been manifested over years and solutions may be slow in coming, “that doesn’t mean they’re not worth pursuing,” he said. “But what it does mean is that the person that has been displaced today is not going to benefit from that immediately. …

“These problems are visceral and they’re current, and the needs to address them are immediate and pressing,” he said, adding that bridging the gap between slow market changes and urgent needs on the streets of L.A. “is really going to be the challenge as we move forward.”

View additional photos from the conference on Flickr:

DTLA 2018

Filling a Gap in Housing Justice Institute on Inequality and Democracy receives $486,784, four-year NSF grant to study housing precarity

By Cristina Barrera

The Institute on Inequality and Democracy (II&D) at UCLA Luskin has been awarded a four-year, $486,784 National Science Foundation grant.

The award (NSF BCS #1758774) will support the establishment of a research coordination network — Housing Justice in Unequal Cities — housed at the II&D at UCLA Luskin to address the housing crisis in a variety of cities in the United States and will include partnerships with key research entities in Brazil, India, South Africa and Spain.

The network will advance research on housing precarity such as evictions, homelessness and displacement, with plans to study these issues in tandem with forms of racial segregation and discrimination.

“As the recent headlines indicate, the United States is in the midst of an evictions epidemic. And yet, there is very little systematic data and data visualization on evictions and related forms of housing precarity,” said Ananya Roy, director of the Institute on Inequality and Democracy and professor of urban planning, social welfare and geography. “There is also much work to be done on conceptualizing the main instruments of displacement and evictions that are currently underway in black and brown communities.”

According to Roy, the network will fill a gap in research by systematically analyzing community and policy responses that seek to create housing access and housing justice through legal frameworks, cooperative models of land and housing, and collective action (e.g. rent control, community land trusts). An important aspect of the project is its coordination at the intersection of social movements, universities and policy. Paying close attention to housing movements and policy interventions, the network will synthesize the primary modalities of housing justice and its conceptual underpinnings into a housing justice handbook that will be broadly disseminated.

“A global and comparative approach is important because there are important lessons to be learned from housing research in other parts of the world, including sophisticated conceptualizations and measurements of displaceability,” Roy said. “Similarly, there is much to be learned from housing movements in different parts of the world and how they have been institutionalized in progressive forms of urban planning and policy change.”

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)

Searching for Stability Amid California’s Rent Crisis Housing costs have become unmanageable, and UCLA Luskin panelists discuss how policy could help ease the burden for renters

By Zev Hurwitz

Though housing prices in Los Angeles are seemingly out of control, it may be control that can start to ease the burden for struggling renters.

At a panel conversation held at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs on Feb. 26, 2018, a trio of experts discussed the housing crisis in the area and the potential for new rent control and eviction protections to help stabilize living situations in Los Angeles.

Michael Lens, assistant professor of urban planning at UCLA Luskin, opened the event, “Protecting Renters: Discussions of Rent Control, Stabilization and Evictions,” and alluded to the growing homeless issue as “an indicator of the housing issue in Los Angeles.”

“Here in Los Angeles, renters are spending enormous sums of money on basic shelter,” Lens said. “For an alarming number of Angelenos, even basic shelter is out of reach.”

Lens noted that the most recent homeless data shows 57,000 individuals on a given night are without shelter — a 23 percent increase over the year prior.

“The homeless crisis is an indicator of the housing issue in Los Angeles,” he said.

Tony Samara, program director of land use and housing at Urban Habitat in the Bay Area, explained some of the major issues facing renters in California. The two most critical issues are lack of rent control policies and so-called just cause eviction protections.

“Just cause evictions mean that to evict a tenant, you have to have a reason,” Samara explained. “In the state of California, unless the city has a just cause ordinance, you can be evicted at the end of your lease or within 60 days on a month-to-month basis for no reason. It’s called no-fault eviction.”

Most cities in California do not have such protections for renters, weakening the ability for tenants to plan ahead. Samara noted growth in advocacy campaigns by tenants’ rights groups aiming to broaden the scope of just cause protections and rent control.

“These policies won’t solve all our problems but will at least provide more stability,” he said.

Doug Smith, a staff attorney at the pro bono law firm Public Counsel, is a 2013 alumnus of UCLA’s Urban Planning department and the UCLA School of Law. Smith spoke about how the effects on a community without tenant protections might force families into overcrowded, substandard living conditions — or even homelessness.

“The consequences are really traumatic, and we’re seeing that played out in communities without these policies,” Smith said.

Smith noted that four Los Angeles County cities — Beverly Hills, Santa Monica, West Hollywood and Los Angeles — do have some protections, but the other 84 regional cities do not.

“If you live in one of those cities, those protections are really important,” he said. “They can help stabilize your situation, allow you to continue to live in your home and invest in your community.”

Joan Ling MA UP ’82, a longtime lecturer in Urban Planning at UCLA Luskin, noted the cost of housing for moderate-income Angelenos has risen tremendously in the past 20 years.

“In 1998, 96 percent of units were affordable to moderate level incomes,” she said. “Today, only 15 percent are affordable to that group.”

One big obstacle to the spreading of tenant protections is the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act, which blocked major rent control policies and allowed landlords to dramatically raise rents on units that become available. A repeal effort has stalled in the state government, though some Californians are working to place a measure on a statewide ballot to repeal the law.

Beyond a full Costa-Hawkins repeal, Ling explained that rent control laws may be a disincentive to developers of new projects because they would be limited in their revenue generating. However, she said that compromise is possible.

“You don’t have to say that all housing units will fall under rent control,” Ling said. For instance, housing 10 years old or older would be subject to it.

Ling also noted that data show renters in areas with protections are more civically engaged and tend to remain invested in the community for longer than do tenants in unprotected neighborhoods.

The event was the second in the Housing Equity and Community Series hosted by the Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies. The forum was co-sponsored by the UCLA Ziman Center for Real Estate and the Institute on Inequality and Democracy at UCLA Luskin. It drew more than 60 students, faculty and community members.

Video of the event can be found here.