“Abundant Housing” Movement Is Long Overdue

Mission-Meridian-01_article_slideshow_01I think I just found my new favorite nonprofit organization: Abundant Housing LA.

The organization is tackling head-on the economic and environmental crush of the housing crisis. Or more simply termed, the lack of housing supply in California’s major cities. The resulting stratospheric home prices and rents are great for anyone who bought property in the 1970s or earlier, but brutal for businesses and residents alike since then.

The organization sums up the problem comprehensively on this page, and here’s an excerpt:

Since [1980], housing production in established neighborhoods has fallen off a cliff. This is exactly the opposite of what should be expected, because since 1980 housing prices and rents have increased quickly, much more quickly than inflation and wage growth. The market has been screaming, practically begging, for more housing to be built, especially in high-rent places like the Westside. But it hasn’t been built. Instead, waves of displacement and rising rents have been crashing ever further eastward. Why?

The forces beneath anything as complex as the housing market are complex, but the overriding source of the housing crisis in Los Angeles is this: it is this way because politically powerful anti-housing forces have decided it will be this way.

Starting around 1970, anti-growth and anti-housing forces achieved a long string of political victories that made it more difficult to build housing in LA. The most important of these were residential downzoning measures: changes in city policy that reduced the number of apartments that could be built on a piece of property. In enormous areas of the city, that number was reduced to zero; no development other than the single-family house is allowed.

So what’s their solution? Organize, organize, organize. It’s the only way forward, given the intensely local nature of land use decisions in California. The organization’s immediate step is to win support for a local LA2050 challenge grant.

I wish these folks well, and then I wish that they come to other major cities in California that also need this kind of organizational help. Because the status quo on housing is crushing this state economically and environmentally.


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