Los Angeles Housing Development Update, 1Q 2017

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Welcome to the third installment of Abundant Housing LA’s Quarterly Development Update™!

This is where we dig into public City of Los Angeles data to figure out what’s really going on in our housing market. How much housing are we permitting? How many of our new homes are single-family, large apartment/condo buildings, great quality wood products from Reclaimed Wood Paneling which would make the houses much more likeable, or “missing middle” housing? And how are we doing on Mayor Garcetti’s goal of building 100,000 new homes in 8 years? Where is the market headed?

This time we’re looking at numbers through March 1st, 2017, the latest full quarter for which data is available. First up is a snapshot of overall permitting activity through the first 3 months of the year.

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(Note: We are not including a projection for the rest of the year, as we did for 3Q 2016, because we believe a single quarter is too little information to guess at permitting activity for the coming 9 months.)

The data for the first quarter doesn’t look great, to be honest. It can be hard to make out given the scale of the 2017 bar relative to those for the prior years, but we’ve been outpacing previous years’ single-family home permitting and have fallen behind on almost every other development size. This becomes more clear when you look at the numbers themselves, below.

LA_UnitCount_1Q2017

Here it’s easier to see that we’ve already permitted more than 1/3 of 2016’s single-unit buildings in the first quarter of the year, and are on pace for almost 3,000 such homes by the end of the year. Most of those are probably tear-downs and rebuilds, so they’re unlikely to be adding much of anything to net housing in the city. Meanwhile we’ve permitted less than 25% of the previous year’s units for 2-4 unit, 5-19 unit, and 50+ unit buildings. We’re roughly on pace for the same amount of units in 20-49 unit buildings. Our per-month permitting through March is short of both 2016 and 2015, though again, it’s still a bit too early to assume that this trend will hold true for the remainder of the year. It could go up, and of course it could also go down.

Next we break down the units per building, looking specifically at what share of total permits are for projects with at least 50 units.

HousingPermits_large_projects_1q2017

Thus far we’ve seen a smaller overall share of new homes in buildings with 50 or more units (right around 55%) compared to previous years; this isn’t too surprising given how many single-family developments were permitted. Unlike earlier years, almost all of the permits have been for the largest class of structures: those with 200+ units.

Last, and as always, we look at how we’re progressing toward the Mayor’s goal of 100,000 new homes by 2021.

LA_housing_goal_1Q2017

Short answer: not bad! Long answer: We’ve still got 4 years to go, a recession likely within that time frame, and an acknowledgement at all levels of government that 100,000 units isn’t going to cut it if we’re really serious about solving our affordability crisis (which means creating enough market-rate and affordable units to house all Angelenos). And permits are not the same as construction, so we need to make sure that these projects actually get built in a timely manner.

Did you pick up anything else from the data? Let us know in the comments, and join us on Facebook and our mailing list to keep the conversation—and our advocacy—going strong.


Los Angeles Housing Development Update, 4Q 2016

Are you a member of Abundant Housing LA yet? Join our mailing list for housing- and affordability-related news and weekly action alerts that help increase the diversity of housing choices available to Angelenos.


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Welcome to the second installment of Abundant Housing LA’s new Quarterly Development Update™!

This is where we dig into public City of Los Angeles data to figure out what’s really going on in our housing market. How much housing are we permitting? How many of our new homes are single-family, large apartments/condos, or “missing middle” housing? And how are we doing on Mayor Garcetti’s goal of building 100,000 new homes in 8 years?

This time we’re looking at numbers through December 31st, 2016, the latest full quarter for which data is available. First up is a snapshot of overall permitting activity through the end of last year.

LA_housing_permits_2013-4Q2016

Permitting for new units climbed each year from 2013 to 2015, but dipped a bit in 2016. That’s really unfortunate, given our crushing housing shortage. The good news is that we permitted more small and midsize multifamily homes (2-t0-4 units, 5-to-19, and 20-to-49), which often include fewer amenities and have better odds of filtering down to become more affordable over time. The bad news is that we built more single-family homes—many of them likely mansionizations—and we lost quite a bit of production from larger, 50+ unit buildings compared to the prior year.

Below is a table showing the chart’s underlying data.

LA_UnitCount_4Q2016

Next we break down what those 50+ unit buildings actually look like. Are they mostly apartments and condos with less than 100 homes, larger structures with 200+ units, or somewhere in between?

Similar to the earlier data, it looks like buildings on the smaller end of the spectrum (within this subset) saw some of the most significant growth: The number of homes permitted in 50-to-99 unit buildings grew from 8.8 to 13.5 percent of the total; meanwhile, housing permits fell for projects with 100-to-199 units and those with 200+ units.

Last, we take a look at progress on the mayor’s 100,000 unit goal.

LA_housing_goal_4Q2016

Things are looking good at 42 months into the 8-year horizon, with permits running somewhat ahead of the benchmark.

As we mentioned in our first development update, though, permits are not the same as completed units: It’s possible that some of the units permitted during this period will be delayed, and plans may be scrapped for some projects, leaving permitted homes indefinitely unbuilt. But it’s better to be ahead of the curve than behind it.

Then there’s the question of whether 100,000 units (12,500 per year) is even an adequate goal. We at Abundant Housing contend that it is not. Our plummeting rental vacancy rate, skyrocketing prices, overcrowding, and worsening homelessness crisis are all evidence that we’re failing to meet the demand for homes in Los Angeles. And given that most household formation in our city is coming from native-born children growing up and moving into their own homes, we can’t blame this on outsiders. It’s our problem to solve.

So what should our goal be? Mayoral candidate Mitchell Schwartz had an extremely aggressive plan—350,000 new homes over a 10-year period, with 500,000 more rehabbed or preserved over 15 years—that we wish had received more coverage during the campaign season. If the imminent threat of Measure S hadn’t been demanding everyone’s attention over the past 6 months (including our own), it very well may have received the attention it deserved. Schwartz’s plan was for 35,000 new homes per year, more than double the 16,700 units that were permitted in 2015. Is this a realistic goal? Maybe, maybe not. It’s more than we’ve built in any decade in LA’s history, but it’s also closer to the historical average than the housing numbers we’ve seen since 1990.

Either way, it’s a conversation we should be having: If 12,500 homes per year isn’t enough (it isn’t), what is? If 35,000/year became our new goal, what city rules and processes would need to change in order to achieve it? What would our city look like ten years hence? And how could we plan for those new homes in a way that protected renters and promoted greater access, health, safety, and opportunity for all of LA’s residents? With our community plans set to be updated on a regular six-year cycle, we’ll be pushing the city to ask (and answer) exactly these types of questions. We hope you’ll join us!


Every Organization You Trust Is Voting No On Measure S

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Los Angeles voters will be deciding on the fate of Measure S on March 7th, but many people are still unclear on what it seeks to do, or what it would actually achieve.

The rhetoric on each side is pretty extreme. According to the Yes campaign, Measure S will “save our neighborhoods” and create a city in which rents are affordable, evictions are stopped, and homelessness is ended. The No campaign describes the initiative in apocalyptic terms, describing it as a “housing ban” that would make the housing crisis even worse.

Who to believe? Here at Abundant Housing LA we’ve written plenty about our own views on Measure S. But don’t take our word for it. You should just listen to the experts.

So…

– If you’re concerned about how the construction of affordable housing is affected by Measure S, we recommend getting a hold of the smart, dedicated people at the Southern California Association of Non-Profit Housing, who represent most of the affordable housing developers in LA and are voting No on Measure S.

– If reducing homelessness is one of your top priorities, lend an ear to some of the folks that have served our homeless neighbors for decades, including the United Way, Covenant House of CaliforniaSkid Row Housing TrustInner City Law Center, the Downtown Women’s Center, or the Los Angeles Mission, who are voting No on Measure S.

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– If evictions, gentrification, and tenant’s rights are your issue, have a chat with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)Alliance for Community TransitCoalition for Economic Survival, SAJEEast LA Community CorporationSoutheast Asian Community AllianceTRUST South LA, or Community Health Councils, who are all voting No.

– If you’re unsure about how Measure S will impact the environment, you might want to defer to the League of Conservation VotersNational Resources Defense Council, or Climate Resolve, who all recommend that you vote No.

– If living wage, stable jobs are your thing, your best bet is probably unions like the AFL-CIOSEIUIBEW, or UNITE HERE, whose members are voting No and want you to do the same.

– If you’re worried about how Measure S will affect the economy, the Chamber of Commerce usually knows their stuff, and if funding for essential government services is important to you, you might want to follow the lead of the LA Police Protective League and the United Firefighters of Los Angeles City—all of them are voting No.

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– If you’re a die-hard partisan, you could always just do what your political party tells you: Mayor Garcetti, along with both the Los Angeles County Democratic Party and the Republican Party of Los Angeles County are recommending a No vote on Measure S.

– And if you’re into the dispassionate, academic style, there are a couple dozen UCLA and USC professors, with expertise ranging from Urban Planning to African-American studies to Public Health, who would all like to see you vote No in March.

Meanwhile, Measure S was written and is fully financially backed by just one individual: Michael Weinstein, the controversial CEO of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, who began this fight as a way to stop a residential tower from being built across the street from his 21st-floor office in Hollywood. A man with a history of wrong-headed crusades and with no record of experience or expertise in issues of city planning, homelessness, or affordable housing. But he’s got a great slogan (“Save Our Neighborhoods!”), so that’s something.

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You can explore the full No on Measure S coalition here, and we invite you to compare it against the Yes on S endorsements, here. When you’re finished browsing each, please fill out your vote-by-mail ballot and send it in, or commit to showing up at the polls to vote No on Measure S.


Who Should You Trust on Measure S? Look to the Endorsements.

The Measure S campaign and its financial backer, Michael Weinstein of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, have made a wide range of claims about how their March 7th initiative will “Save Our Neighborhoods.”

People like me have written at length about how Measure S would worsen the affordability landscape in LA, driving up homelessness and increasing displacement in existing neighborhoods. The LA Times Editorial Board concurs.

Who to trust, given such conflicting claims? Frankly, this is one of those rare times where you really don’t even need to listen to the arguments: just look at who’s endorsed each side.

On the “No” side you’ll find just about every local organization dedicated to affordable housing, homelessness, environmental protection, economic development, worker’s rights, and democratic values. On the “Yes” side, you’ll find… well, see for yourself: Continue Reading


2016 Was a Good Year For Abundant Housing in LA

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Happy 2017 from Abundant Housing LA!

Abundant Housing is a volunteer organization that supports more affordable and market-rate housing in the LA region in order to reduce rents for residents of all backgrounds, ages, and income levels. Thanks to everyone who made this a banner year—as an all-volunteer organization, we’re only as good as the work we collectively do!

Growing and evolving

We started the year with just five original members. We end the year with 375. On the one hand, that’s a good thing, because everybody needs more friends, and collectively we’re starting to get some real political power. On the other hand, it shows that high rents and the housing crisis are continuing to cause real problems, and people across LA are looking for solutions.

Last summer brought the first wave of new volunteers, who brought new energy and organized the first Abundant Housing LA meetings that were open to the public, allowing people interested in the group to learn more, socialize, and get involved. As we started to grow, it was time to get organized, so we officially formed the steering committee in October. You can learn more about the steering committee here—please reach out anytime, we’re always looking for good ideas and good people who want to lend a hand to help get things done! Continue Reading


Don’t Call It a Boom: Despite Uptick, LA Still Adding New Housing At a Snail’s Pace

Are you a member of Abundant Housing LA yet? Join our mailing list for affordability-related news and weekly action alerts that help increase the diversity of housing choices available to Angelenos.


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In mid-December we wrote that Los Angeles is well on its way to achieving Mayor Garcetti’s goal of building 100,000 new homes between 2013 and 2021. With development visibly picking up in neighborhoods throughout the city, we’ve been hearing from the media that LA is in the midst of a boom in housing development. (See here, here, here, or here.)

But is it, really?

We’ve permitted quite a few homes in a short period of time, so in that sense, yes, we’re booming. But permitted housing is not the same as built housing, and many entitled units don’t end up being built for years (or decades). And 3 or 4 years of rapid housing development won’t make up for 30+ years of underproduction, dating back to the late 80s and the passage of destructive anti-growth measures like Proposition U. Continue Reading


Los Angeles Housing Development Update, 3Q 2016

Are you a member of Abundant Housing LA yet? Join our mailing list for affordability-related news and weekly action alerts that help increase the diversity of housing choices available to Angelenos.


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We’re introducing a new feature here at Abundant Housing LA: quarterly updates on housing production in the City of Los Angeles. Our first edition goes through the third quarter of 2016, ending on September 30th.

Huge kudos are due to the Mayor’s office for creating the position of Chief Data Officer, a role held until late 2015 by Abhi Nemani, who brought Los Angeles’ open data rating to #1 in just one year. Transparent data is critical for government accountability and the ability of organizations like ours to track progress on important goals like housing production and affordability. So, first and foremost, credit where credit is due.

As this is the first installment in our quarterly housing update, we strongly encourage readers to provide feedback. Is there a data-set we should be using that isn’t reported here? Can the presentation of data be improved? We’re open to your recommendations and we intend for these updates to improve over time based on your input. Continue Reading