Opinion: Los Angeles Needs More Housing, Fast

The shortage of housing at all price points in the region is the main driver of high costs and the growing homelessness crisis.

2 minute read

January 4, 2023, 11:00 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

In an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times, Michael Lens explains why building more housing, including market rate housing, is the best way to improve affordability and keep people from falling into homelessness.

“Despite investments in supportive housing and services, the number of Angelenos who struggle to stay housed has remained unacceptably high. Further, Black Angelenos are nearly seven times as likely to experience homelessness as the rest of L.A. County,” Lens writes. 

To address the crisis, newly elected mayor Karen Bass has declared a state of emergency. “The declaration gives her power to convert hotel rooms into housing, sign master leases for entire buildings and expedite housing approvals. She is determined to see more temporary shelters and subsidized housing be built.”

But as Lens explains, “Moving people into temporary quarters might seem like the only quick solution, but any approach that relies on shelters runs counter to the research evidence that permanent housing solutions are both less costly and more effective.” In fact, “Getting people off the street makes only a small dent in the problem if those people are replaced by new distressed renters.” A bigger problem is the housing shortage in the region. Once zoned for 10 million housing units, the city is now zoned for only 4 million, not keeping up with its growing population.

Despite gentrification and displacement concerns, “Allowing more and faster production of market-rate housing can slow the pace at which rent rises and make our housing subsidy dollars go further.” Lens argues that “If we build new housing, the neighborhood will still change, but incoming renters have somewhere to go that’s not already occupied.”

Considering that building subsidized housing for all who need it is likely an unrealistic goal, Lens writes, promoting more housing construction of all types is the next best solution to the housing crisis.

Friday, December 30, 2022 in Los Angeles Times

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