By Mary Leslie and Gary Painter
Los Angeles faces a reality marked by economic extremes: Our unemployment rate sits at record lows with wages steadily rising, yet the vast majority of residents do not make enough to afford a home in the region. The problem is so acute that we now face one of the most egregious house-to-income price ratio discrepancies in the nation – worse than San Francisco, Seattle and New York.
With hundreds of thousands of new affordable units needed to meet demand, the L.A. City Council, the state Legislature and Gov. Jerry Brown have taken major steps to address the crisis, passing a slate of bills and legislative reforms to try to fast-track new housing. However, the enormity and widespread nature of the housing shortfall makes it nearly impossible for the public sector to fix it alone.
If workers have steady employment yet still can’t afford to put a roof over their heads, Los Angeles’ housing problem poses a serious threat to our regional economy. Companies cannot attract and retain workers if the best we can offer employees is a choice among sky-high rents, substandard conditions or long commutes. There’s a real need to pursue a public-private partnership approach, where the business community works on a parallel track to government initiatives with employers taking the lead on programs that meet the unique needs of their employees.