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Housing Costs Dampen Residents’ Satisfaction With Life in Los Angeles UCLA’s Quality of Life Index finds that renters and younger people are particularly vexed by sky-high prices

By Les Dunseith

The rising cost of housing continues to be the single biggest factor undermining residents’ satisfaction with life in Los Angeles County, according to the fourth annual Quality of Life Index.

The survey, a joint project of the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs and The California Endowment, found dissatisfaction with housing affordability to be particularly strong among a group designated by researchers as “struggling,” which includes mostly younger residents, those with household incomes of $60,000 or less per year, renters and people without a college degree. Their housing satisfaction rating of 37 was in contrast to the 48 rating among a group designated as “comfortable,” which includes mostly older homeowners with higher incomes and more education.

The cost of living category is the lowest-rated of any in the survey. More than half of respondents said that what they “pay for housing, mortgages or rents” is the most important factor in their cost of living and the primary reason that satisfaction with cost of living has declined by eight points since the first index was released in 2016.

‘In Los Angeles County, the one thing that everyone seems to agree on is that we are paying too much money just to have a place to live.’ — Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin

“Since the inception of the report, people have been concerned about their cost of housing, and their level of dissatisfaction just continues to get worse,” said Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin.

At a rating of 42, cost of living was again the lowest-rated category in the 2019 survey — below education at 49. Transportation and traffic (50) also rated negatively in the survey, which has a midpoint of 55. Three categories fell into a middle tier of satisfaction: the environment (56), jobs and the economy (59), and public safety (60). Survey respondents expressed the most satisfaction in the categories of race relations and neighborhood quality (both 68), and health care (69).

Residents were asked to rate their quality of life on a scale of 10 to 100 in the nine categories and 40 subcategories of the survey. The overall rating this year among all nine issues was 56, the same as 2018 but a decline from 59 in the first two years of the survey. Researchers noted that the overall Quality of Life Index score would have been 60 this year if the rating for housing had simply been .

“In Los Angeles County, the one thing that everyone seems to agree on is that we are paying too much money just to have a place to live,” Yaroslavsky said.

More than half of respondents (57 percent) said they, a close friend or a family member has considered moving from their neighborhood in the last few years because of rising housing costs. This is an increase of 10 percentage points since the question was first asked in 2017. About two-thirds of respondents younger than age 50 said they had considered such a move.

A quarter of all respondents — the same number as in the previous survey — said they or someone they know have worried about becoming homeless in the last few years.

Key transportation findings

In addition to the questions used to develop the Quality of Life Index, the survey asked a number of other questions about important issues facing the Los Angeles region. Several of those questions were on topics of transportation and traffic.

  • Half of respondents said they commute longer than 30 minutes a day, a slight increase from 2017.
  • Nearly four in 10 people said they use on-demand, shared transportation — such as Uber or Lyft, and Bird or Lime scooters — at least once or twice a month. The number varied widely by age, with just over half of those under age 50 saying they use shared transportation but less than a third over age 50 reporting such usage. Six in 10 of respondents over age 65 have never done so.
  • Almost two-thirds (64 percent) of respondents said they oppose charging a fee for use of designated roadways at peak periods of the day, an idea known as congestion pricing that has been touted by proponents as a way to reduce traffic and improve driving speeds on California streets and freeways.

“Even if policymakers who are studying congestion pricing determine that it presents the best hope of reducing the time we are stuck in traffic, it’s clear that officials face an uphill battle in trying to get the public to support it,” Yaroslavsky said.

Key growth and development findings

  • Respondents were asked whether they believe that people whose homes were burned in recent wildfires should be allowed to rebuild, and 76 percent said yes.
  • Conversely, 73 percent of respondents do not think that construction of new homes should be allowed in areas of Los Angeles County that are identified as being at high risk of wildfires.
  • A majority of people surveyed (62 percent) believe that the construction of new apartment buildings should be confined to areas zoned for multiple-family dwellings. Less than a third (29 percent) say apartments should be allowed anywhere, including in single-family zones.
  • Respondents are split about the impact of recent building development and growth in their community: 44 percent say they are having a positive impact, but 47 percent say they are having a negative impact.

Yaroslavsky pointed out that respondents’ household incomes have risen over the four years that the index has been conducted. In 2016, for example, 27 percent of respondents reported household incomes under $30,000 a year. By 2019, that income level was reported by 19 percent of respondents. Similarly, the percentage reporting an annual household income of more than $150,000 rose from 9 percent in 2016 to 13 percent in the latest survey.

The 2019 UCLA Luskin Quality of Life Index survey is based on interviews with a random sample of 1,406 county residents from March 1 to 20. Interviews were conducted in both English and Spanish.

The Quality of Life Index was prepared in partnership with the public opinion research firm Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates.

The survey results are being released this year to coincide with a research-informed, cross-sector conference about the major issues facing the Los Angeles region known as “Luskin Summit 2019: Livable L.A.” The inaugural Luskin Summit also commemorates the 25th anniversary of UCLA Luskin.

 

Read a Summary of the 2019 L.A. County Quality of Life Index

Yaroslavsky Named to Team Working for L.A. Schools

Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin, was named to an L.A. Unified School District team created to provide more resources to local schools and improve student learning. Yaroslavky is one of three civic leaders volunteering their time to the initiative, which seeks to move resources and decision-making from the bureaucracy to schools. “This is about empowering and supporting our school leaders and teachers … and crafting a path to increased parent and community participation in schools,” LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner announced. “We are grateful for the support of the philanthropic community and the civic leaders who are involved in improving public education in Los Angeles.” As a former county supervisor and City Council member, Yaroslavsky has dedicated four decades to public service working on such issues as school-based wellness,  the environment, transportation and the arts. “I’m excited about working with the Greater Los Angeles community to ensure that every student receives an education that prepares them for the economy and society of the future,” Yaroslavsky said. “A thriving public education system is vital to the health and success of our communities and our cities.

Deportation, Loss of Health Care Raise Profound Concerns in New UCLA Luskin Survey Second annual Los Angeles County Quality of Life Index shows how some of the Trump administration’s policies have caused serious concerns for many county residents

By George Foulsham

Zev Yaroslavsky

More than one-third of Los Angeles County residents are worried that they, a family member or a friend will be deported from the United States, and nearly half of county residents believe that repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act with a new federal health law would make their access to health care worse.

These two major findings highlight the 2017 UCLA Luskin Los Angeles County Quality of Life Index, a project of the Los Angeles Initiative at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs in partnership with the California Endowment. The annual survey, which is in its second year, is based on interviews conducted with about 1,600 county residents from Feb. 28 to March 12, 2017.

The index is an annual survey of Los Angeles county residents that asks them questions to rate their quality of life in nine different categories. In addition to the categorized questions, the survey also asks specific standalone questions that relate to their quality of life. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.6 percent.

In one noteworthy finding, 37 percent of county residents are worried about deportation from
the U.S., and more than half of them are very worried. Of respondents who expressed
deportation worries, an overwhelming 80 percent said that they, a friend or a family member
would be at greater risk of being deported by enrolling in a government health, education or
housing program. More than half of them are very worried.

“The level of anxiety over deportation among county residents is staggering,” said Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative. “The national debate on immigration in
recent months has heavily impacted Los Angeles. The extraordinary number of people who now
fear engaging local government for services should be of concern to all of us.”

Those observations are reflected in follow-up interviews conducted by the Luskin School. A man
in his early 30s who lives in the San Fernando Valley and is half-Latino said he worried for his
girlfriend’s family, most of whom are in the country legally but one of whom is not. “I wouldn’t
even call the police,” he said.

These concerns are not limited to minority groups. Another respondent, a white woman in her
late 50s who lives in the South Bay, said she’s concerned about neighbors and others being
deported. “I hear from a lot of people who are afraid,” she said.

Significant findings on deportation worries include:

  • Younger residents are more worried about deportation (50 percent between the ages of
    18-39, compared to 25 percent of those over 50).
  • Latinos, who make up 43 percent of the survey sample, are the most concerned about
    deportation (56 percent) and nearly one-third of Asian residents are worried (31
    percent).
  • Lower-income residents are more likely to be worried (49 percent of those earning less
    than $30,000 annually, compared to 30 percent of those earning over $120,000
    annually).
  • Residents born in another country (52 percent) are more worried, compared to U.S.-
    born (30 percent). Twenty-nine percent of the survey sample are foreign born.
    Nearly one-fifth of whites (19 percent) expressed concerns about deportation.

Obamacare Concerns

Nearly half of survey respondents said that repeal of the ACA, also known as Obamacare, would
make their access to quality medical care worse. Forty-eight percent of respondents said
replacing the ACA would worsen their access to care, while 14 percent said the repeal would
improve access. Thirty percent said it would make no difference. The survey was taken before
the Trump administration and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan made the decision to withdraw
legislation that sought to repeal the ACA with the American Health Care Act.

Follow-up interviews bear out these findings. A young African-American man living in the San
Gabriel Valley thinks Obamacare could use some improvement, but “it’s better than what we
had.” He added that he had no confidence in the Trump/Ryan proposal to replace it.

Significant findings on the ACA’s repeal and replacement include:

  • Younger residents are more likely to say that changes would negatively impact them (58
    percent between the ages of 18-39, compared to 32 percent of those older than 50).
  • Those with Medi-Cal or an ACA insurance policy are more likely to say changes would
    negatively impact them (59 percent).
  • A significant majority of African-Americans (63 percent) and Latinos (56 percent) say
    changes would negatively impact them.

Gentrification

The gentrification of many Los Angeles County communities also is a cause for concern,
according to the survey. Fifty-five percent of those contacted said they have a negative reaction
to the displacement of their neighbors by those who are willing to pay more for housing. Only 19
percent viewed this as positive. And the number went up to 57 percent negative among those
who were asked about community-serving shops and stores being replaced by businesses willing
to pay higher rents.

Sixty-five percent of Latinos and African-Americans viewed gentrification as negative, compared
to 43 percent of whites and 38 percent of Asians. Geographically, 68 percent of residents of
Central Los Angeles viewed gentrification negatively.

The Index

Interestingly, the QLI’s overall satisfaction score of 59 remained the same as last year, though
there were some shifts within various categories. The score remained slightly above the
midpoint of 55 (on a scale of 10-100). Overall satisfaction, according to the QLI, depends a lot on
one’s age. Those in the 18-29 age group had a satisfaction score of 53, at the low end of the scale,
while those who are 75 and older had the highest satisfaction score, 67.

That’s true throughout the survey, with younger residents the least satisfied overall in many
categories, including the cost of housing, educational opportunities and the fairness of the local
economy.

Other highlights from the index:

  • Transportation and traffic scores are lower this year, driven in part by the condition of
    streets and the length of commutes.
  • Satisfaction with the cost of living, especially as it relates to housing, also declined from
    last year, from 51 to 47. That was true among residents from all income groups. Nearly
    half of the respondents (48 percent) said that what they paid for housing was the most
    important factor in their rating of the cost of living category.
  • The scores for education also dropped slightly from 2016, with respondents expressing
    lower satisfaction with the overall quality of K-12 public education and the training
    children and young adults receive for jobs of the future.
  • The most positive score in the QLI was in race relations. Overall satisfaction in relations
    among different ethnic and racial groups rose to 79, compared to 76 last year.
    Asked to rank the overall impact that immigrants are having on this region, the
    satisfaction rating was four points higher than last year, at 69.
  • Satisfaction with neighborhood quality was also high — and unchanged from last year, at
    75. Homeowners are more satisfied with their neighborhoods than are renters.
    Health care continues to have a relatively high level of satisfaction, though those under
    age 39 are less satisfied than those over 50.
  • Other categories showing slight improvement included the environment, jobs and the
    economy.

“Overall, county residents generally feel positive about their quality of life, the communities in
which they live and their relations with one another,” Yaroslavsky said. “However, it is troubling
that younger people, who should have so much to look forward to, often feel most pessimistic,
especially when it comes to the excruciatingly high cost of housing.”

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

Download the 2017 QLI (PDF)

 

 

 Review the data (PDF)

 

Summary Narrative (PDF)