Report: L.A.'s Unaffordable Housing is Killing the City

A thought-provoking report from the Los Angeles Business Council, the Workforce Housing Scorecard, sums up what anyone who lives here already knows: 

A woeful lack of workforce housing in major employment centers in Southern California, combined with poor public transit options in the region, severely undermines the competitiveness of Los Angeles County employers by driving up costs, hindering recruitment, and reducing the quality of life and productivity of workers.

Other points made in the report:

  • Over the last 20 years, L.A. County has added nearly 1.5 million new residents but fewer than 200,000 new housing units.
  • A family earning the county’s median income of $53,000 spent more than half of its income on housing.
  • Rental prices have doubled since 1990, while wages have grown only 18%. (Compared to how much mortgage payments went up in that time, it’s no wonder so many are renting.)
  • Many potential workers have moved to more-affordable areas, making it difficult for L.A. County to attract essential workers, such as teachers and hospital personnel.
  • More than 72% of L.A. County workers commuted alone in their cars in 2006.

Last year, my husband got a job in downtown L.A., so I’ve had a chance to experience this problem firsthand.freeway.jpg

When we first moved here, we lived in a downtown loft, and I had a job at Wilshire and the 405.  Taking the gridlocked 10 freeway was not an option, so I took Wilshire every day.  That’s two hours a day on the road, alone in my car — on a good day.  And I live in the city!

After seeing for myself what life would be like as a commuter, my husband and I decided our best option would be to live in the Miracle Mile area and rent, versus moving to a more affordable area and driving. I now work at Wilshire and Crescent Heights, a mile from my house, and my husband takes the bus downtown.

Buying a house in the city is simply not an option, even for people, like us, who make considerably more than the L.A. County median. Homes in our neighborhood — and I’m talking 90-year-old, 1,200-foot fixers — start at $750,000 — and good luck finding one.

The lack of a subway from downtown to the ocean is a serious problem, and one that must be fixed.  There are literally thousands of major employers west of Western Avenue, which is as far west as the subway goes now.  To build one now, thanks to everyone’s resistance and procrastination, will cost something like $9 billion, but there is no other way.  We can’t continue to add millions of cars a day to our roads.

This November, L.A. County voters will be asked to approve a half-cent sales tax, called Measure R, to fund the subway.  No one wants more taxes, but unless we want life in L.A. to become intolerable, we have to get people off the roads. It won’t solve all of L.A.’s problems, but it’s a huge step in the right direction.

  • Ron

    It really is sucking the life out of the city. The way that people have to combat this is by earning more income. How do you do this? 1st, you have to get creative and start acting upon your goals…

  • No brainer

    It is time for the rich jerks in Hancock Park and Beverly Hills to stop preventing the subway from going under Wilshire from downtown to the ocean. A downtown to ocean subway will make LA a dramatically better city. It is a no brainer.

  • brad

    Once again Cindy, you hit the nail on the head… My wife and I make good money, but we’re out of luck buying on the westside and we’d move elsewhere, but my job market is in santa monica and public transpo is no good…

    By the way, Ron, thanks for the amazing advice… I’m signing up right now (note sarcasm please)…

  • jan brick

    just hang on, Cindy. in the coming 2 yrs, housing prices will be dropping at least 30%–we’ll be looking at year 2000 levels. you can bet on it.

  • Cindy Allen

    Brad, LOL at your Ron comment. Yes, that’s the solution: Those median-income people just need to make more money. Brilliant!

  • Cindy Allen

    Hi, Jan: Even 30 percent might not be enough. We’ll see. Hope you’re right!

  • Pingback: A Plan for Affordable Housing in Unaffordable L.A. | Redfin Los Angeles Sweet Digs

  • ed hardy

    Even 30 percent might not be enough. We’ll see. Hope you’re right!