When my wife and I moved to Los Angeles nearly three years ago, her 70-hour work-weeks at UCLA forced us into the Westside housing market, where our rent was embarrassingly high at $2,795 per month. In most parts of the country, the kind of apartment that comes with a rental rate that rounds up to $3,000 would offer amenities like doormen, swimming pools, and slate countertops. Our apartment offers none of those things: it is a modest yet perfectly adequate apartment for a young family.
Why shouldn’t middle class Angelenos be able to access an apartment like ours? Though we make comfortable incomes, LA’s housing shortage has essentially forced us to encroach on what should be “affordable” housing for middle-class residents — and to pay “luxury” rates for it.
Like many Angelenos, my wife and I used to believe that our high cost of living was due to strong demand for a limited supply of units in a “desirable” neighborhood. However, we came to realize that L.A.’s anti-housing movement has opposed housing development for decades, which has constricted the supply of housing and forced prices upward, especially here on the Westside.
The organizations that make up the anti-housing movement, not the millions of Angelenos who want a place to live in this city, are the ones responsible for the housing crisis that is tearing families apart.
I am grateful that these activists won’t tear my family apart. My wife and I are professionals with good wages and so, by the grace of God, we can afford our rent (now $3,000 per month). However, when we purchase a home one day, the $1.2 million price tag of a home in West L.A. will force us further afield to neighborhoods like Palms, West Adams, or Mid-City, where we will be able to afford the $600,000-$900,000 cost of a modestly-sized condo.
We’ll manage, but how will other Angelenos? With no new stock to keep prices in our own neighborhood down, our search for homes in less affluent neighborhoods will raise prices there, too. And so the cycle of gentrification will continue. Other families pursuing their American dream will be displaced to other neighborhoods and eventually to other cities.
This dynamic weighs heavily on my conscience. Should the mere fact of my family’s professional success rob another family of a chance at theirs? Do we believe that living in an economically vibrant city like L.A. should be the privilege of the affluent?
Of course we don’t, nor should anyone. Allowing the construction of enough housing to ensure that L.A. is accessible to more than just the wealthy is a moral imperative.
The main obstacle to this more inclusive Los Angeles is the scorched earth politics of the anti-housing movement. Organizations like the Sherman Oaks Homeowners Association and the Federation of Hillside and Canyon Associations have opposed housing development for decades. More recently, organizations like the AIDS Healthcare Foundation have joined the fray by financing the Yes on S campaign.
Despite a mountain of evidence that housing scarcity has impoverished L.A.’s middle- and working-class families and exacerbated income inequality across America, all of these organizations stand in opposition to virtually all new housing development.
Fortunately, organizations like Abundant Housing LA (AHLA) are advocating for more constructive solutions to our housing crisis. For example, AHLA is strongly encouraging City Council to approve the proposed Expo Line Transit Neighborhood Plan (TNP). The TNP represents a once-in-a-generation opportunity to permit new development on the Westside that is transit-accessible and environmentally friendly. We encourage all Angelenos, especially Westsiders, to tell your City Councilmembers to vote “yes.”
While the most zealous anti-housing activists may never stop fighting new housing, others are well-intentioned and may not realize how much their activism is hurting our city. Whether you live in financial comfort or in fear of displacement, let this be the year when all of us reject the anti-housing ideology of decades past. Let’s come together to say yes to people, yes to housing, and yes to L.A.
Let us know if you’re in.
By Nick Burns, an Abundant Housing LA Member who lives on the Westside