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Building Small to Make California Homes More Affordable

A Santa Ana small lot development could be an example of how California could become more affordable by building more dense urban-style homes throughout the state.
January 4, 2017, 11am PST | Casey Brazeal | @northandclark
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Los Angeles

Small, closely packed houses aren't the norm in California's Santa Ana, but when Olson Co. built 62 small residences in the city's downtown, the units went so quickly, the developers raised the price of the units by $50,000. "A tightly spaced ‘infill’ development of town homes squeezed into just two and a half acres — making it an affordable housing option in a region where many young families can’t afford to buy a traditional new home," Andrew Khouri reports in The Los Angeles Times.

Many of California's most popular cities and most robust job markets are very expensive. The price of housing has been shown to impair the state's economy. If the state is to tackle this issue, one key strategy will be to build smaller, denser developments. The need for more small lot developments doesn't end at the borders of big cities, "… experts say the regional housing shortage also needs to be addressed by building more infill developments in outlying communities." This refers not just to L.A.'s Silver Lake or San Francisco's Mission District, "… many of these recent infill developments are outside such areas as Los Angeles’ Westside or Orange County’s Newport Beach with pricey real estate."

Still, infill doesn’t represent a silver bullet. Planning has to be holistic, in part because of how hard it can be to make residents excited about more density. "Approvals for denser infill projects can be challenging, especially since the available land often borders traditional subdivisions that blossomed during the region’s great post-war boom," Khouri writes.

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Published on Friday, December 23, 2016 in Los Angeles Times
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