Over the last six year’s, the United States has seen a robust shift within the housing market. From 2007 to 2009, the market took a tragic turn when the value of real estate owned by U.S. households fell by nearly $6 trillion. With the fall, many families were left homeless and many already struggling with a low and very-low income. Now with nearly 91% of homeless residents unsheltered, looking for a home or a place to call home seems impossible for the dispossessed Angelino.
“Within LA there has been a drastic change with the house market, especially when it comes to affordable housing,” Los Angeles realtor Steven Veracruz said.
Veracruz added that the housing market within LA has diminished significantly over the past 3 years. Unmoved wages and increasing housing costs have pushed many low-income households’ budgets to a breaking point. With that drastic fall, many families could not pay their mortgages forcing them to look for affordable housing in the area.
According to the Invisible People organization, the median price of a new apartment in Los Angeles in January 2013 was $1,770, which requires an annual income of $70,800 to be affordable. Additionally, the federal government states that paying more than 30 percent of one’s income represents a cost burden leaving insufficient income for other basic needs. With that, the Invisible People website says that the city’s “median rent increased 31 percent from 2000 to 2010 compared to an increase in incomes of just 1.2 percent.”
“As a realtor here [Los Angeles] I can say that I have seen more families selling their homes this past year than any other year.” Veracruz said.
With a surplus of families trying to look for more affordable housing, many say that there is a lack of space and economy to accommodate for families. A California Housing Partnership Corporation (CHPC) analysis of 2006 stated that more than 143,000 new renter households have entered the Los Angeles market since 2006, many because of displacement during the foreclosure crisis.
According to the California Poverty Measure, the poverty rate in Los Angeles County is 27 percent, five percent higher than the poverty rate in California as a whole,
Additionally the 2012 survey done by the CHPC states that there is a shortfall of 490,340 affordable homes available to Los Angeles County’s very low-income and extremely low-income households. With so many hurting families in Los Angeles, a high percentage of these end up in the streets homeless and unsheltered.
“Nothing is more necessary than to see the residents of Los Angeles thrive and live comfortably,” tenant developer for Los Angeles Norman Isaac said. “Our community needs people who will invest in them by putting aside special housing for them in times of economic need.”
Norman, a community worker who serves alongside the Strategic Actions for a Just Economy organization (SAJE) has agreed to set aside 24 of his 160 planned units for low-income families. This is in hopes to alleviate pressure from families who become displaced or evicted from their homes.
“It is so hard to see families with small children forced to move out of their homes because other companies have decided to buy that land and build bigger houses, which would be sold at a higher market value,” said Organizing Coordinator at SAJE Favian Gonzalez.
The SAJE organization is a community organizer and advocate working on behalf of the residents of South LA. They are responsible for taking “slumlords to court and helping establish land trusts and work to find positive solutions to conflicts between institutions and low-income city residents.”
“Through my time here at SAJE, I can say that I have clearly seen a much larger group of homeless individuals and families due to the crisis of affordable housing,” Gonzalez said. “The gap between low-income families and affordable housing is becoming bigger and bigger and little is being done to ensure a basic need for homeless residents of LA.”
A recent Harvard Joint Center for Housing study elucidates a severe national shortage; more than half of low-income tenants today spend more than half of their income on rent and 21 million people can’t find rental homes within their means. As the value of homes and rental properties have gone up, wages have not been able to reflect those housing inflations. This has caused several low-income and very-low income families left to turn to affordable housing. But what happens when there is not enough affordable housing for the struggling Angelinos?
Mitch O’Farrell, Councilmember of the 13th District and Felipe Fuentes, Councilmember of the 7th District have worked alongside other organizations to end the problem of affordable housing. Although O’Farrell was unable to comment, his Executive Assistant stated “Council member O’Farrell recently passed the Affordable Housing Trust Fund (AHTF) in order to provide monetary aid for families in search of affordable housing.”
The Department of Housing and Community in Los Angeles states that the AHTF creates “affordable rental housing low and very love income households.” In addition, this fund sets aside the monetary cost of creating new construction of affordable housing or for the “rehabilitation of existing residential structures.”
Additionally, Cano added that O’Farrell has introduced this motion to “develop policy initiatives that could encourage the development of affordable housing, permanent supportive housing, veterans housing, working housing and senior housing.”
“Sometimes we place families in these allocated affordable homes but the state in which these homes are in is at times unlivable,” said Gonzalez.
Six year’s after the housing market, we can see that the value of homes is slowly restoring and leveling out. However, the problem of affordable housing is not only a cause of the fall of the market. Area’s such as Echo Park and Highland Park in Los Angeles are becoming gentrified, a term signifying that cities are being renovated in order to accommodate for the middle and upper-class individual.
Families all over Los Angeles are currently living in area’s where urban inequality has increased alongside the cost of living. According to the website of Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell, there are “8.5 liquor store per square mile compared to 0.10 large-scale supermarkets per square-mile” in gentrified areas. Additionally, 37% of households in urban areas are overcrowded. Gentrification has not only caused a mass exodus of low-income families to flee their long time homes, but it has also forced families to acquire more than two minimum wage jobs in order to barely survive.
“I see families struggling every day,” said Gonzalez. “It’s absolutely heartbreaking to know that I can’t help every family that comes into our office looking for a warm-place to put their child to sleep.”
The debate on gentrification ethics has garnered large-scale conversation. Many argue that displacing families and creating more appealing neighborhoods is damaging for the residents already placed in those locations. However, others favor renovations stating that the improvements help build up Los Angeles and create safer neighborhoods for all.
“Our organization is advocating for the stop of gentrified cities and displaced families. Instead, we advocate for better housing and better care for the already established residents in Los Angeles,” said Gonzalez.
Although the problem of gentrification is worsening, agencies such as the SAJE and efforts from Councilmember O’Farrell are helping alleviate the stress many Angelino families are facing.
“We want families to know that we are here to help them in their time of need,” Commission in the Department of Housing and Community Investment of Los Angeles Patricia Villasenor. “There are different resources many individuals can partake in aside from affordable housing.”
Aside from city help, displaced families can seek additionally aid from government placed programs such as the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families programs (TANF) and SSP-MOE, which is public welfare. According to the 2014 pre-liminary TANF data, as of January 26th, 2015 there have been 537,583 TANF recipients in the state of California for fiscal year 2014. That is just over half of the population in Los Angeles County.
“Many low-income undocumented families tend to fear governmental agencies,” sad Villasenor. “But all of our assistance programs offer no documentation of U.S. citizenship or question legal statuses in the United States.”
Now in 2015, more than half of the Angelino population continues to struggle with home inflation, high poverty levels and insufficient working wages. With that, the city continues to see renovations and higher scale edifices surrounded with one of the largest homeless populations in the United States. The lack of affordable housing has had the biggest influence on the increase of people experiencing homelessness.