REAL ESTATE

Shortage of affordable housing is dire in L.A. County, advocates say

L.A. County lacks 500,000 affordable homes for poorest residents, report says

Advocates for low-income Californians called Wednesday for more homes with below-market rents, releasing a report that says Los Angeles County faces the greatest shortage of affordable housing in the state.

The county needs 490,340 additional homes with below-market rents if its poorest residents are to reasonably afford live in the area, according to the report from the California Housing Partnership Corp. Nowhere in the state is that shortfall greater than Los Angeles, the nation's most populous county and home to many low-income residents.

To cope, low-income households either cut back on other necessities, cram into over-crowded apartments, rent unsafe units or move away, said Alan Greenlee, executive director of the Southern California Assn. of Non-Profit Housing, which helped produce the report.

The lack of affordable homes has only worsened in recent years as incomes have failed to keep pace with rents. L.A. County’s median inflation-adjusted rent rose 25% from 2000 to 2012, while the county's median income dropped 9%, the report said. Rents have soared in recent years as many people who lost homes to foreclosure have entered the rental market.

Meanwhile, state and federal funding for below-market-rate units in L.A. County has plunged. For example, when local redevelopment agencies shuttered in 2012 to help ease a state budget crisis, that meant the loss of roughly $250 million a year for affordable housing county-wide, according to the study. 

In addition to the L.A. County study, the California Housing Partnership -- a state-created nonprofit dedicated to preserving low-priced units -- released reports on four other counties: San Diego, Alameda, Sacramento and Santa Clara.

In all five counties, a majority of households that earned 50% or less of the median income pay more than half of that income on their rent.

The partnership called for several policy changes. It recommended state leaders create a permanent funding source to build and preserve below-market-rate housing. The group also urged local governments to use some of the additional tax revenue they now receive that formerly went to redevelopment agencies. 

The Los Angeles County government has done so, although municipalities such as the city of Los Angeles have not.

There have been other efforts to boost funding. A bill before the state Assembly would fund the creation of roughly 10,000 affordable units statewide each year through additional fees on recorded real estate documents, except for those involved in a sale.

However, supporters of the bill recently said passage of it is unlikely this year. That’s partly because three senators who last year voted to pass SB 391 have been suspended amid corruption and voter fraud charges, throwing the measure into doubt if it is amended in the Assembly.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) has also proposed using a portion of funds from the state’s cap-and-trade program for affordable housing near transit stations.

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