'Small-lot homes' aim to drive down prices, but critics say they just drive up density

The Small Lot Subdivision Ordinance was designed by the city of Los Angeles in 2005 as a way to increase density in urban areas, lower the price of single-family homes and boost homeownership.

Architect Barbara Bestor says density is an imperative for urban living. "The question is more about how do you keep a cool, interesting neighborhood intact while building a small house that is not a generic town house."

But even though small-lot developments will contribute to Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti's goal of adding 100,000 homes in the city by 2021, the ordinance is not without its detractors. In Silver Lake and Echo Park, some neighbors are petitioning for a moratorium on the developments, citing traffic, privacy and density concerns.

For now, the town homes and row houses have proved popular with homeowners, who are snapping up small-lot homes in Silver Lake, Echo Park and Eagle Rock, and new developments are planned for Eagle Rock, Hollywood and Frogtown. Blackbirds developer Casey Lynch believes further infill development in dense neighborhoods will result in more affordable home prices. But so far, home prices have continued to rise, and Los Angeles continues to be ranked among the least-affordable housing markets in the country.


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