HOUSING & TRANSPORTATION: BUILDING LIVABLE COMMUNITIES
The LABC has a long history of focusing on the housing affordability gap in Los Angeles County, where inadequate public transportation and a lack of affordable workplace housing have worsened traffic congestion and harmed business’ ability to recruit and retain workers.
The LABC and LABC Institute have released a series of reports and continues to support legislation, policies and projects aimed to spur affordable housing and smart transportation infrastructure.
Housing Pays seeks to demonstrate the fiscal benefit of increased housing production, and how that fiscal surplus can support important city priorities including affordable housing. Using Mayor Garcetti’s goal of 100,000 new units by 2021 as a benchmark, the study calculates that new housing production could produce a cumulative net benefit of $583 million over an 8-year period through taxes and fees. This amounts to millions of dollars added to the city’s bottom line to support critical services that benefit all Angelenos, including building more desperately needed affordable housing.
At the same time, Housing Pays demonstrates what’s at stake if housing development slows down. Failure to meet the Mayor’s 2021 goal will hit Angelonos with a one-two punch – foregoing vital new housing and losing hundreds of millions of dollars in new revenue that could otherwise be reinvested in new affordable housing construction.
This report is a follow-up to the Los Angeles Employer Assisted Housing Handbook, a 2009 report issued by the Los Angeles Business Council (LABC) that proposed a number of strategies that employers might adopt to lessen the extent of the region’s affordable housing crisis, which has become more acute since that report was issued. It presents information about how employers and businesses have reacted to the high cost of living and of housing in Los Angeles. Over the course of 3 months, a team of USC researchers surveyed 14 major Los Angeles employers to get their views on how high costs have affected their ability to attract and retain workers, how their employees are handling the high costs, and their efforts to help alleviate the pressures that arise from living in a region with such high housing costs.2015
A Livable River. Since 2012, the LABC Institute has emphasized the need to develop livable communities that include a substantial workforce housing component as a part of a comprehensive economic development strategy for the region. Livable communities are those which have a balanced mix of residential and commercial uses, tied together through public transit connections, bicycle and pedestrian paths, and mobility hubs. Rapid expansion of the Los Angeles transit network is providing an incredible opportunity to widen the developable footprint around transit stations and connect livable communities like never before.
While we work to incentivize high quality, livable development in the region, it is critical to expand the supply of affordable and workforce housing for those earning between 50 and 120 percent of the Area Median Income (“AMI”). In Los Angeles County, annual funding for lower-income affordable housing (80 percent AMI or below) has fallen dramatically, from $732 million in 2008 to $164 million in 2013—a 78 percent decline in just five years (California Housing Partnership Corporation, 2014). Workforce housing, which is affordable to those earning between 80 and 120 percent of AMI and essential to housing moderate-income residents such as teachers, public servants, and young employees, has similarly suffered from a lack of supply and funding. Without an increased supply of affordable and workforce housing, Los Angeles could see much of its workforce—and subsequently, economic activity—depart to regions with less cost-burdened housing markets.
The Los Angeles River revitalization presents a unique opportunity to develop underutilized land and build new transportation connections, creating a cohesive series of sustainable, thriving, equitable communities throughout Los Angeles County. Successful redevelopment along the river will be a key component of the region’s sustainable growth strategy for years to come.
This report explores the numerous opportunities for development along the river and into the surrounding neighborhoods, and begins with a look at the past and present conditions of the LA River and its adjacent communities. It is followed by a summary of the potential the river holds for revitalization and sustainable development and a brief analysis of the multitude of strategic efforts that have taken place to plan for growth along the river.
2013 Livable Communites Report: A Call to Action
In October 18, 2013, the LABC Institute released the Livable Communities: A Call to Action, authored by Paul Habibi, Professor of Real Estate at the UCLA Anderson School of Business and a Los Angeles real estate developer. Commissioned as a follow-up to the 2012 study, Building Livable Communities: Enhancing Economic Competitiveness in Los Angeles, the report provides a detailed analysis of the opportunities and challenges associated with developing livable communities in Los Angeles County - a critical factor in maintaining the region’s economic competitiveness.
The 2013 report comes amid a backdrop of steep cuts to funding for affordable and workforce housing from local, state, and federal funding streams. It provides detailed public policy recommendations for overcoming those challenges and incentivizing the development of much-needed workforce housing in the region, which is defined as housing affordable to families earning between 50-120 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI).
To identify areas with the greatest development potential, the 2013 report introduces the Livable Community Opportunity Index, a unique new tool to analyze the market potential to develop "Livable Communities" around transit stops. The Opportunity Index scores each of 104 station areas across Los Angeles County’s light rail (LRT) and bus rapid transit (BRT) lines, and is made up of six key demographic and market indicators - population, housing density, income, employment, transit ridership, and land values - to evaluate whether a given market can support the type of development that would relieve the region’s workforce housing shortfall.
With case studies on the Orange Line and Crenshaw Line Station areas, the report concludes with specific recommendations for policymakers related to project financing and development incentives, and are designed to narrow the financial gap illustrated in the two case studies that would encourage developers to pursue workforce housing in target areas near transit, serving both workers as well as current and potential employers.
2012 Building Livable Communities: Enhancing Economic Competitiveness in Los Angeles
In October 2012, the LABC Institute released Building Livable Communities: Enhancing Economic Competitiveness in Los Angeles, produced in collaboration with Paul Habibi, Professor of Real Estate at the UCLA Anderson School of Business. The report was guided by a Livable Communities Advisory Committee composed of public- and private-sector housing and transportation leaders, and was commissioned as a follow-up to the LABC’s 2008 Workforce Housing Scorecard for Los Angeles.
The report examines the current supply of workforce housing in Greater Los Angeles – an issue critical to the region’s economic competitiveness – in light of the housing crisis and economic downturn from which L.A. is struggling to recover.The report finds that failing to adequately address the widening housing affordability gap will cause the region to become far less attractive to current and future employers, and less competitive against other metropolitan areas where quality workforce housing is in far greater supply.Proactive public policy solutions are critical to meeting the need for workforce housing and ensuring Los Angeles remains a world-class destination for the nation’s leading employers and talent. Chief among these solutions is support for the expansion of the region’s transit system and the encouragement of housing development along rail and rapid bus corridors – not simply near transit stations.
The study finds that improving connections to the transit system for people living near these corridors links them to job centers, and makes the development of workforce housing far more feasible. Connecting workforce housing to employment centers also creates “livable communities” that lower transportation costs, travel time, regional congestion, pollution, and other negative side effects of our workforce housing shortage.
Los Angeles Employer Assisted Housing Handbook
Released in October 2009, the LABC report, titled the Los Angeles Employer Assisted Housing Handbook, argues that Employer Assisted Housing (EAH) programs can play a pivotal role in improving regional economic competitiveness and jobs/housing balance in the short-term, and work as part of a long-term economic development strategy that includes encouraging smart growth, investing in public transportation and building a vibrant clean-tech economy.
Workforce Housing Scorecard for Los Angeles
Released in September 2008, the Workforce Housing Scorecard describes the factors leading to the significant jobs/housing imbalance and quantifies the severity of the problem. For example, between 1990 and 2007, Los Angeles County reported a net gain of 1,433,531 new residents but added only 194,554 housing units – a seven-fold differential.
According to the Scorecard, nearly two decades of rising housing costs have squeezed low and middle income residents, causing many to sink an increasingly large share of their income into their place of residence. In 2007, a family earning the countywide median income of $53,000 per year spent more than 50 percent of their earnings to purchase a home in Los Angeles County – far greater than the 30 percent recommended by experts.