Statement On LA City’s Low Income Housing Crisis
From my years of service as the Chair of my Neighborhood Council’s Planning & Land Use Committee, there are two things I know: 1) we do not have a housing crisis, we have a low-income housing crisis; and 2) trickle-down housing policies do not work and never will.
Over the past couple of decades pay-to-play housing development has reigned supreme. This has created an over-abundance of high-end units financially benefiting national and international mega-developers, and a shortage of low- and mid-end units that people making $25k or $35k per year can afford.
Excerpt from the Los Angeles Housing + Community Investment Department’s report dated June 11, 2020, to City Council relative to an analysis of vacancy rates in the city.
These numbers are startling to say the least. And why are we continuing to build these unneeded high-end units at such a rate when we actually need low- and mid-income units? It’s because developers and the real estate industry keeps pushing the false narrative that if they build enough high-end units, affordable housing will somehow magically trickle down to us peasants.
Trickle-down housing policies are based on the incorrect premise that there is a housing shortage of higher end units and therefore people that could afford them would move out of lower cost housing if such units existed. Well, we have plenty of those units available and yet no one seems to be “movin’ up.”
And going with the definition of insanity of doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result, the politicians and bureaucrats in LA City Hall are doubling down on these failed policies through the updates of our city’s General Plan’s Housing Element and the 35 corresponding Community Plans.
There is the legal kind of pay-to-play where developers are required to give LA City Council Members money if they want their projects to go through that gets voted on by the council and is placed into a city trust fund under the administration of the Council Member. Then there is the illegal kind like what Jose Huizar, Mitch Englander, and a cast of city officials have been accused of, and in some cases, indicted for.
Either way, these practices, both legal and illegal, are not meant to solve our ever increasing low-income housing crisis but instead are meant to maximize profits for developers at the expense of people making $25k per year. The system is not broken, it’s working exactly the way it’s supposed to. The rich get richer and the rest of us get screwed.
Why do I use the number $25k per year? Because in the 13th District, that is the median income of our residents. Most of these folks are now paying more than 50% of their take home pay for rent and far too many are paying more than 80%. This is not equitable nor sustainable, and it is time for leadership that puts people before profits.
Now, add in the fact 27,000+ Rent Stabilized Units in our city have been demolished from the market since 2001 by developers using the Ellis Act, who then turn around and build units going for $2,500+ per month and more, and what you get is a perfect storm of decreasing supply of units people making $25k per year can afford and replacement of those units with ones they cannot.
In my estimation, all of this combined is the major driver for the homeless population increasing year over year even with the Los Angeles Services Authority housing 22,000 people in 2019 alone. The simple fact is hard working low-income folks are being priced out of their homes and neighborhoods with nowhere to go but to live in their cars (if they are lucky) or in tents on the sidewalk (if they are not so lucky), all so fat-cat developers can line their pockets and so politicians can fill their campaign coffers.
On my first day in office on the City Council, I will put a motion forward and fight for increasing the low-income housing requirements for density bonuses and Transit Orientated Communities Guidelines.
There is not much a council member can do if a developer is building a project completely by-right. However, if a developer wants to build something that is not and seeks my approval as your council member, I will be a tough negotiator in fighting for low-income housing (as well as eco-friendly design/construction).
We will not even put a dent in the homelessness crisis until we have bold progressive voices on the City Council so if, like me, you say enough is enough, investing a few bucks in my campaign and signing up for our newsletter is a step in the right direction towards bringing some sanity to our city!