Packed In: Overcrowded housing in Los Angeles has brought death by design

Illustration of people filling a house in middle. Left: a man with luggage and woman and child. Right: homes behind a fence
(Victor Bizar Gómez / For The Times)

It’s the cruel paradox at the center of Los Angeles housing. L.A. is known worldwide as the capital of single-family-home sprawl. Yet for three decades, it has had the most overcrowded housing among large counties in the United States. The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the fatal consequences, with death rates in L.A.’s most overcrowded neighborhoods at least twice as high as in those with ample housing.

It didn’t have to be this way.

The crowded conditions have been a century in the making, with local leaders designing Los Angeles in a way that made these circumstances inevitable.

This Times series reveals how it happened.

Los Angeles’ love of sprawl made it America’s most overcrowded place. The region’s poor and marginalized communities pay a deadly price.

Stuck in an overcrowded apartment in one of L.A.’s most packed neighborhoods, Ruby Gordillo seized a vacant, state-owned home for her family. They may be forced to leave soon.


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