Letters to the Editor: If you can’t afford L.A., live elsewhere. That was true in the 1950s too

A house with a "For Sale" sign
A home for sale in Chatsworth, in the western San Fernando Valley, is seen in February 2020.
(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

To the editor: My childhood home sounds similar to the home that letters editor Paul Thornton’s great-grandparents bought for $8,500 in Glendale, except it was in Reseda.

The west San Fernando Valley was quite different then — it was literally west of everything, consisting of all new residential development, services and infrastructure. Los Angeles barely resembles that era today. Where there once seemed to be an unlimited supply of land for development, precious little undeveloped land remains today.

In a capitalist society, scarcity creates price increases.

Try building a 1,200-square-foot house today. With rising costs of permits, materials and labor, the construction alone would approach $400,000. Put that structure on a small lot anywhere in Los Angeles, and you’ve got your median-priced house. If you can’t afford that, you can’t afford a house in Los Angeles.


If Thornton’s great-grandparents couldn’t have afforded their home in Glendale they would have had a choice: Rent, or move elsewhere. Things haven’t really changed all that much.

Mark Brown, Sherman Oaks


To the editor: I’m sure Thornton is a fine editor, but apparently his strong suits do not include mathematics or economics.

His commentary expressing astonishment that his childhood home could have appreciated from $8,500 in 1954 to $1.4 million in 2022 should have been expressing ho-hum instead. After accounting for inflation, that house has appreciated at an annual rate of 4.3%.

If there is any astonishment to be found, it is that the rate is so low.

Ty Griffin, San Luis Obispo


To the editor: My family bought the house I’m living in now for $12,500 before 1960. One of the reasons why my father was able to afford this home was that his job paid more than $10,000 annually. At the time, the wages of a skilled laborer were roughly equal to the cost of a house.


In the late 1990s, when I moved in, the house was worth $150,000.

My gripe is this: If the price of housing had been put in the consumer price index, I’d be getting much more in Social Security than I am now, and I would be able to undertake necessary home improvements.

Even with generational wealth, adequate income matters.

Joan DaVanzo, Long Beach


To the editor: There were five letters to the editor this Saturday, any one of which was much more compelling than the letters editor’s long column pining for his childhood house of yesteryear.

Real estate is expensive. Got it.

More letters and less self-indulgence from the letters editor, please.

Hans Laetz, Malibu