Los Angeles Housing Development Update, 1Q 2018

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Welcome to the latest installment of Abundant Housing LA’s Development Update!

This is where we dig into public City of Los Angeles data every 3 months to figure out what’s really going on in our housing market. How much housing are we permitting and building? How many of our new homes are single-family, large apartment/condo buildings, 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?

In these updates we look at building permits (link above), which are an indicator of imminent construction activity, as well recent openings as measured by Certificates of Occupancy. You can read about our methodology for analyzing the data at the bottom of the post.*


Building Permits

For this post we’re looking at numbers through March 31st, 2018, the latest full quarter for which data is available. First up is a snapshot of overall permitting activity:

Here are the numbers behind the chart:

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

Last for the building permit data, we look at how we’re progressing toward the Mayor’s goal of 100,000 new homes by 2021. Note that the goal’s start date is July 1, 2013, and the end date is June 30, 2021.


Certificates of Occupancy

Building permit data is extremely useful, but it doesn’t exactly correspond to what Abundant Housing really wants: homes for people to live in. For that we need to look at Certificates of Occupancy (CoO), which track actual building openings.

First a disclaimer though: The City controls whether it grants building permits, and how difficult or easy it is to receive those permits, but they don’t actually build the housing. CoO’s are what the developer needs when they finish the building so that tenants can move in, so it’s a measure of what’s actually opening to new residents. And since it takes a few years to construct a building, we’d expect to see a lag of 2-3 years between Building Permit and Certificate of Occupancy for the same project.

We raise these points because we want to make it clear that having fewer CoOs than building permits (which is what we see below) is not a failure on the part of the City. It’s what we’d expect when development activity has been growing, and it’s mostly out of the City’s hands whether building permits lead to real, on-the-ground construction. They almost always do, of course, but it’s not a guarantee.

With that said, here’s the data:

Within this time frame 2015 had the most building permits, so we should expect to see many of those units coming online in 2017 and 2018. That didn’t materialize in 2017, and it remains to be seen whether the pace picks up in 2018.

Next is the data underlying the above chart:

And last, we’ve repurposed our “progress” chart for Certificates of Occupancy rather than building permits, and our progress suddenly doesn’t look so impressive:

As always, we invite members and readers to share their own insights about what they read 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.


*Methodology note: We are now excluding any building additions or alterations that add less than 5 units, which is a way for us to avoid counting permits that may not actually be adding new units. We also don’t count condo conversion permits, but do count adaptive reuse projects that add 5 units or more. Previous years’ numbers have been updated based on this new methodology so the data is comparable across time.

This change resulted in about 150 fewer single family homes in our calculations in previous years, and approximately 1,000 fewer single family homes in 2017. The jump in 2017 appears to be a result of recent changes to state and City law that permit the construction and conversion of accessory dwelling units. Since most of these ADUs appear to be legalizations of existing structures, we believe it’s fairer to not count these as “new” housing even though it’s great to see these homes being inspected and coming out of the informal housing market.


Los Angeles Housing Development Update, 4Q 2017

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.


Welcome to the latest installment of Abundant Housing LA’s Development Update!

This is where dig into public City of Los Angeles data every 3 months to figure out what’s really going on in our housing market. How much housing are we permitting and building? How many of our new homes are single-family, large apartment/condo buildings, 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?

In these updates we look at building permits (link above), which are an indicator of imminent construction activity, as well recent openings as measured by Certificates of Occupancy. You can read about our methodology for analyzing the data at the bottom of the post.*


Building Permits

For this post we’re looking at numbers through December 31st, 2017, the latest full quarter for which data is available. First up is a snapshot of overall permitting activity through 2017. As you’ll see, permits landed between the last two years, at about 15,500 units:

Here are the numbers behind the chart:

We did better than 2016, which is great news. We permitted less than 2015 though, which isn’t so great.

Next we break down the units per building, looking specifically at what share of total permits are for projects with at least 50 units. As with total unit counts, building sizes are similar to those of the last few years. Interestingly, the largest projects (with 200 units or more) have represented a continuously declining share of permits since 2014.

Last for the building permit data, we look at how we’re progressing toward the Mayor’s goal of 100,000 new homes by 2021. Note that the goal’s start date is July 1, 2013, and the end date is June 30, 2021.


Certificates of Occupancy

Now, building permit data is extremely useful, but it doesn’t exactly correspond to what Abundant Housing really wants: homes for people to live in. For that we need to look at Certificates of Occupancy (CoO), which track actual building openings.

First a disclaimer though: The City controls whether it grants building permits, and how difficult or easy it is to receive those permits, but they don’t actually build the housing. CoO’s are what the developer needs when they finish the building so that tenants can move in, so it’s a measure of what’s actually opening to new residents. And since it takes a few years to construct a building, we’d expect to see a lag of 2-3 years between Building Permit and Certificate of Occupancy for the same project.

We raise these points because we want to make it clear that having fewer CoOs than building permits (which is what we see below) is not a failure on the part of the City. It’s what we’d expect when development activity has been growing, and it’s mostly out of the City’s hands whether building permits lead to real, on-the-ground construction. They almost always do, of course, but it’s not a guarantee.

With that said, here’s the data:

Within this time frame 2015 had the most building permits, so we should expect to see many of those units coming online in 2017 and 2018. We’re behind what we might expect for Certificates of Occupancy in 2017, unfortunately. We will need to wait until the first few quarters of 2018 to really know what’s come of that (relative) flurry of permitting in 2015.

Next is the data underlying the above chart. We would hope that the pace of openings would be greater than in 2016, but that’s not the case. In fact, we didn’t even open as many units as we did two years ago, in 2015:

And last, we’ve repurposed our “progress” chart for Certificates of Occupancy rather than building permits, and our progress suddenly doesn’t look so impressive:

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.


*Methodology note: We are now excluding any building additions or alterations that add less than 5 units, which is a way for us to avoid counting permits that may not actually be adding new units. We also don’t count condo conversion permits, but do count adaptive reuse projects that add 5 units or more. Previous years’ numbers have been updated based on this new methodology so the data is comparable across time.

This change resulted in about 150 fewer single family homes in our calculations in previous years, and approximately 1,000 fewer single family homes in 2017. The jump in 2017 appears to be a result of recent changes to state and City law that permit the construction and conversion of accessory dwelling units. Since most of these ADUs appear to be legalizations of existing structures, we believe it’s fairer to not count these as “new” housing even though it’s great to see these homes being inspected and coming out of the informal housing market.


Los Angeles Housing Development Update, 3Q 2017

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.


Welcome to the latest installment of Abundant Housing LA’s Development Update!

We’ll 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 and building? How many of our new homes are single-family, large apartment/condo buildings, 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 is a special edition of the Development Update because we’ve expanded beyond looking only at the building permits issued by the City (which allow developers to start building), and will now also be tracking building openings as measured by Certificates of Occupancy. Because of the increase in data and charts, we’ll be reducing our commentary somewhat. And one last thing before we get to he data: We’ve changed the methodology for how we track building permits; the change is described at the bottom of this post.*


Building Permits

For this post we’re looking at numbers through September 30th, 2017, the latest full quarter for which data is available. First up is a snapshot of overall permitting activity through the first 9 months of the year. As you’ll see, permits are roughly on track to land somewhere around the last two years, between about 15,000 and 16,500 units:

LA_housing_permits_2013-3Q2017

And here are the numbers behind that chart:

We’re ahead of 2016’s pace, which is great news. We’re behind compared to 2015 though, which isn’t so great.

Next we break down the units per building, looking specifically at what share of total permits are for projects with at least 50 units. As with total unit counts, building sizes are similar to those of the last few years.

Last for the building permit data, we look at how we’re progressing toward the Mayor’s goal of 100,000 new homes by 2021. Note that the goal’s start date is July 1, 2013, and the end date is June 30, 2021.


Certificates of Occupancy

Now, building permit data is extremely useful, but it doesn’t exactly correspond to what Abundant Housing really wants: homes for people to live in. For that we need to look at Certificates of Occupancy (CoO), which track actual building openings. We’ve started doing exactly that, and you can see the results below.

First a disclaimer though: The City controls whether it grants building permits, and how difficult or easy it is to receive those permits, but they don’t actually build the housing. CoO’s are what the developer needs when they finish the building so that tenants can move in, so it’s a measure of what’s actually opening to new residents. And since it takes a few years to construct a building, we’d expect to see a lag of 2-3 years between Building Permit and Certificate of Occupancy for the same project.

We raise these points because we want to make it clear that having fewer CoOs than building permits (which is what we see below) is not a failure on the part of the City. It’s what we’d expect based on timing, and it’s mostly out of the City’s hands whether building permits lead to real, on-the-ground construction. They almost always do, of course, but it’s not a guarantee.

With that said, here’s the data:

LA_CertOcc_2013-3Q2017

Within this time frame 2015 had the most building permits, so we should expect to see many of those units coming online in 2017 and 2018. We’re behind what we might expect for Certificates of Occupancy in 2017, unfortunately, but we will need to wait until the first few quarters of 2018 to really know what’s come of that (relative) flurry of permitting in 2015.

Next is the data underlying the above chart. We would hope that the pace of openings would be greater than in 2016, but that’s not the case:

LA_UnitCount_CertOcc_3Q2017

And last, we’ve repurposed our “progress” chart for Certificates of Occupancy rather than building permits, and our progress suddenly doesn’t look so impressive:

LA_housing_goal_CertOcc_3Q2017

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.


*Methodology note: We are now excluding any building additions or alterations that add less than 5 units, which is a way for us to avoid counting permits that may not actually be adding new units. We also don’t count condo conversion permits, but do count adaptive reuse projects that add 5 units or more. Previous years’ numbers have been updated based on this new methodology so the data is comparable across time.

This change resulted in about 150 fewer single family homes in our calculations in previous years, and approximately 1,000 fewer single family homes in 2017. The jump in 2017 appears to be a result of recent changes to state and City law that permit the construction and conversion of accessory dwelling units. Since most of these ADUs appear to be legalizations of existing structures, we believe it’s fairer to not count these as “new” housing.


Letter from a Reluctant Gentrifier


Who Moves Into New Housing, And Why?

Homes at Franklin Ave & Las Palmas in Hollywood. Photo by Ian Freimuth.

For anti-housing advocates, new market-rate housing isn’t a part of the solution to the affordability crisis, but the cause of it. New housing, they argue, attracts higher income residents from outside the city, and those new residents drive speculation, rent hikes, and further redevelopment that displaces vulnerable households. They also create demand for new low wage jobs that provide goods and services, which exacerbates the affordable housing shortfall.

This was one of the key arguments made by Measure S supporters to stoke fear and outrage among Angelenos concerned about spiraling housing costs and homelessness: Additional supply begets additional demand, all in service of outsiders and the moneyed elite, and all at the expense of existing residents.

This conclusion depends on the premise that new housing draws in residents from other cities. If it’s not attracting out-of-towners, then the homes are serving locals who would be looking for a home whether or not the new housing was built. It would also mean that the demand for low wage jobs doesn’t increase when new housing is built, because the people generating that demand already live here. And if they already live here, it should be uncontroversial that they need a place to live, right?

For those reasons, it’s essential to understand whether the basic premise of this anti-housing argument is correct. Does new housing mainly serve to attract residents from other regions? As you’ll read below, an intuitive understanding of housing choice doesn’t align with that interpretation, and neither does the data.

Warehouse space converted to condos in the Arts District. Photo by Rod Ramsey.

Who’s moving into new housing?

The most fundamental question we can ask about new homes is this: Who are they for? The assumption by slow-growthers is that new housing is mostly for someone else, whether it’s snobby out-of-towners, wealthy globalists looking for a place to park their cash, or some other distasteful construct. It’s not for us, it’s for them.

Here’s what the best data available says: For the LA metro area, 68% of those who recently moved into new housing (built 2010 or later) came from within 50 miles of their new residence. That means over two-thirds of households living in new homes came from another home in the LA area.

For housing built between 2000 and 2009, 88% of recently-moved residents are from within 50 miles. The people moving into newer housing are overwhelmingly Angelenos, not interlopers.* They are you and me, and they need a place to live just like anyone else. Imagine where those 88% would be living if we’d built even fewer homes in the 2000s.

All of these newly-relocated households are making space for someone else in the home they just left behind. (Or they’re forming a new household by breaking away from roommates or leaving their parents’ home, which is great too.) New housing is typically more expensive than other options on the market, so it’s a safe bet that these residents’ previous homes are more affordable than their new ones. However it is a proven fact that many prefer to buy a new house that repair their current one. They might see it as an easier and faster solution, not many have the time or are willing to argue with their contractor on how to lay tiles in your shower room for instance.

Even if some people are downsizing into newer units, such as when an empty-nester couple moves from a single-family home to a less expensive condo, they’re doing us a favor. They’re making that home available to larger or younger families that can make better use of its space, or they’re giving a developer an opportunity to turn it into more (and more affordable) places for people to live. New condos selling for $500,000-600,000 are out of reach for many LA area households, but they’re within the grasp of far more families than a million dollar single family home. By promoting the density bonus and other incentives for these projects, we can get income-restricted units out of the bargain and extend the benefit of more housing to families living at a wide range of incomes.

So the Census confirms that most residents of new housing are from the region, and that’s important. When we don’t build enough housing, those people lose out on choices. And when they don’t have as many choices, they go looking for older, less expensive housing as the next-best option.

We’ve covered the 68%, but maybe you’re thinking that that leaves about 32% who aren’t from here. What’s their deal?

Newly-built homes at Broadway and Lincoln in Santa Monica. Photo by Ollie Siebelt.

Why do people move to a new city?

32% of those living in the newest homes are from outside LA, but how does development of new housing play a role in their decision to move here? For this question, it’s probably best to think about your own experiences and those of your friends and family.

If you’ve ever moved to a new city, just ask yourself: At what point did home selection enter into the decision to move? Did you say to yourself, “Wow, I saw they built this amazing new apartment building in Hollywood. I’ve gotta get out of Omaha and into one of those units.” Probably not. (But if so, please get a hold of us because you are a fascinating specimen and we’d like to study you further.)

For most of us, choosing exactly what home to rent or buy is one the last decisions in the difficult process of pulling up stakes and settling in a new city. We move to take a great new job, or to go off to college, or to chase our dreams for reasons that have very little to do with housing availability. We take the leap, then we figure out the rest as we go.

To the extent that housing choices do factor into our decision, it’s to figure out if we can actually afford to live in the new city. Most of the time we first decide that we want to move, then we decide if we can. Quite obviously, the supply of new market-rate housing isn’t going to be the thing that deters us. If we’re price sensitive, we’re not looking at new housing anyway. What could deter us, and absolutely does for thousands every year, is a housing shortage that’s driven up the price for homes of every age and quality. Our exclusionary housing policies pose no barrier to higher-income migrants from other cities, but they work better than any border wall at blocking out new low and moderate income households.

When we look at the data as well as our own personal experiences, the argument that new housing is attracting rich people and impoverishing existing renters simply strains credulity. It’s a convenient fiction that we need to move beyond. People move to Texas for the cheap housing; they don’t move to LA for the expensive stuff. So long as people keep moving to our city—and it’s a great place to live, so why wouldn’t they?—we need to keep building more housing of all kinds.


*Note: We don’t buy into the kind of exclusionary thinking that pits existing residents against future ones. It’s a zero sum solution in a world with a whole variety of positive solutions available, and it diminishes the spirit to approach community planning, and life in general, in such an us-versus-them fashion. We are engaging with the argument not to give it credibility, but to show how anti-housing arguments fail to stand up even on their own terms.


The housing crisis won’t fix itself

When LA city and county voters voted overwhelmingly for investments in transit and affordable housing, and against Measure S’ restrictions on new homes, we noted the momentum that these victories would give to advocacy for more homes in LA.  We still believe that there is a new pro-housing majority in Los Angeles. We can’t, however, rest on our laurels and assume that we will magically get more homes and lower housing costs.

Without continued pressure, it will be easy for LA to slip back to a status quo in which it was very difficult to build or invest in homes. Politics and policies around housing reflect decades of slow-growth assumptions. Many public officials and private interests either have a stake in maintaining this disfunction, or will need encouragement to shift into a more pro-housing frame of mind. We need to be bold and strategic to change the dialogue around housing and development, and the rules that govern how homes are built and regulated.

Abundant Housing LA is still optimistic that we can make a difference. We are establishing local teams of members and supporters who can advocate for good proposed housing developments in specific places. This will help us work towards the vision we laid out just after Measure S of “more housing, neighborhood by neighborhood” But in this post we want to highlight troubling signs that LA is stuck in old ways on housing.

housing production going in wrong direction?

We just posted housing permit numbers for the City of Los Angeles for the first quarter of 2017.  While 3 months of data isn’t enough to predict the annual trend, the numbers aren’t great, nor terrible, when compared to the past couple of years. As we have argued before, the baseline rate of home building in LA is too low to meet population growth, so whether it ticks up or down, it is still insufficient.  The graph below shows that our housing challenges are part of a state-wide trend in which out “housing booms” create the same amount of housing as was built in “housing crashes” in earlier decades.

slide from Ben Metcalf, CA HCD

slide from Ben Metcalf, CA HCD

The recent decline in permits for small multifamily apartments of 2-49 units is somewhat troubling given their traditional role in providing more affordable homes.  Units permitted in early 2017 were proposed and entitled months or years earlier, so we’re not yet seeing the results of any recent shifts in policy or trends. We have heard anecdotal claims that the number of homes proposed in the City of LA has dropped in 2017, which could be the result of uncertainty over Measure S and/or the impacts of Measure JJJ. We will try to see if there has indeed been a decline in new applications.

Housing for the homeless facing barriers

Measures HHH and H represent an incredible opportunity to speed up production of permanent supportive housing for homeless Angelenos and pair new homes with services. The City of LA has also stepped up to identify publicly-owned sites that could be used for permanent supportive and/or affordable housing.  From Boyle Heights to Venice in the City of LA (and Temple City, where residents want to block permanent supportive units on nearby County land), some residents are fighting badly needed homes that can help get our neighbors off of the streets. We need to ensure that local opposition to supportive housing doesn’t snatch defeat from victory.

It is too easy to stall, shrink and stop new housing

While we dodged Measure S’s ban on developments that need planning changes, many individual market rate and mixed-income housing developments in LA are still being slowed, shrunk or stopped. Abundant Housing LA is following and supporting several projects where local opposition is leading to delays or to proposed developments being reduced in size.    This cuts the number of new homes and sometimes completely eliminates affordable units sought under density bonuses.

Community and specific plans are aiming too low

One good thing that came out of Measure S was a commitment by city leaders to speed up updates of old community plans. The City of LA is also working on transit neighborhood plans.  Updated plans can potentially help expand the number and diversity of homes in LA. Plan updates can increase the number of new homes that can be built by “up-zoning” in the right places. More modern zoning with reduced parking and more realistic dimensional and design standards can also mean that more new developments can proceed without needing to seek variances, which slow down projects and can open them up to more lawsuits and political fights. As specific plans, transit plans can “pre-clear” developments in the area through the overall plan Environmental Impact Review- which means that individual projects won’t have to go though a lengthy environmental review.

Unfortunately, most plans that the city is currently updating or creating are aiming for too little new housing to make a significant dent in our housing shortage.  Most community plans in the process of being updated provide just enough new space for anticipated population growth, but do little to address past under-building and LA’s existing housing crisis. There are also moves to continue piecemeal down-zoning of LA in places like Silverlake and Echo Park.

One way you can help ensure that plans make space for more homes is to attend our May 25 general meeting, focused on the the Downtown LA plan updates.  Los Angeles is not the only local city being too cautious in their planning. Our friends at Santa Monica Next are encouraging Santa Monica to allow more in this draft downtown plan.

Policies are adding costs to building homes

California Governor Jerry Brown didn’t include an increase in funding for affordable housing in his 2017 budget because he wanted to first make sure that lawmakers would “cut the red tape, cut the delays, cut whatever expenses we can” that act as obstacles to new homes, especially below market rate homes.
Abundant Housing LA supports more funding and removing barriers. Locally, we are happy that the City of LA is seeking to raise more money for its affordable housing trust fund, but are concerned that the revenue source would be a $12/sf “linkage fee” on most new homes (and $5/sf fee on new commercial property). It is unclear what impact this fee will have on construction,. It exempts multi-family units of 2 to 5 units, but we worry that the added cost will hurt the rest of the small and medium size residential market.

We think it is bad policy to load the costs of new affordable housing onto the tiny fraction of properties where new homes are being constructed rather than onto society as a whole. We have encouraged the city to consider raising funds in ways that don’t add costs to home-building, such as a parcel tax.

The housing crisis won’t fix itself

We don’t want to overemphasize these warning signs. We also see some positive trends including numerous state bills to address housing issues, legalization of ADUs in more places, a wider embrace of the YIMBY label, upcoming plan updates, etc. It is clear, however, that the housing crisis won’t fix itself. We haven’t yet turned the corner to becoming a city and region that fully welcome more homes.

In a follow-up post we will try to generalize these examples to identify what one could call the main “structural obstacles” to a future with enough homes for all Angelenos. And, of course, we will continue to provide opportunities for members and allies to keep supporting more homes of all types as well as better rules.


Los Angeles Housing Development Update, 1Q 2017

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.


SFH1

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.

LA_housing_permits_2013-1Q2017

(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.


20170102_144723

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!


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