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Rent Q&A: What can be done to make LA housing more affordable?

A sign for an appartment to rent is seen

GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images

A sign for an appartment to rent is seen in Los Angeles on May 27, 2009.

This is the first in a series of stories on renting in Los Angeles. Let us know what you think in the comments below, on our Facebook page or tweet @KPCC with the hashtag #myrent. 

KPCC’s Ben Bergman joins Take Two to talk more about L.A.’s rental crisis, and what, if anything can be done to make rents more affordable.

How does L.A. stack up against other big cities when it comes to rental prices?

L.A. certainly isn’t alone. The New York Times just published an analysis from Zillow that finds 90 cities where the median rent — not including utilities — was more than 30 percent of the median gross income.

But what makes L.A. especially bad is affordability. People make less here than in San Francisco or New York, and we have the highest percentage of the population living in poverty — 26.9 percent — in the state. We also have the biggest shortfall of affordable housing in the state, especially for what’s known as Extremely Low Income renters. 

L.A. is also very transient – we have lots of people coming in and going.   

(click on the rental data map below for the full version)

RELATED: Are you currently looking for an apartment in Southern California?

Why has renting become so expensive?

A big reason is the foreclosure crisis. You might think that would make things more affordable, because houses would be cheaper, but no. 

It’s also much harder to qualify for a mortgage, so there are more people in the rental market, competing for the same number of apartments. There hasn’t been that much new supply, especially for low- and moderate-income people, because there’s been a huge cut in state and federal funding in the last few years to subsidize affordable housing. We’re talking billions of dollars.

Without these subsidies, it doesn’t make financial sense for developers to build affordable apartments.

What can be done to make renting more affordable in L.A.?

There are two sides to this – income and rents. Remember, the problem is rent is going up while incomes are going down.

So putting the issue of income aside – which we could talk about all day – you need to increase the supply, which would involve making it easier to build apartments. A lot of people in houses wouldn’t like that. You also need to restore the state and federal affordable housing funds.

There is a bill working its way through the California legislature that would replace some of the funds lost and create 10,000 low- and moderate-income homes annually through a $75 fee for recording real estate documents.

RELATED: How much of your paycheck do you spend on rent? 

What have people told you about what it’s like to rent in L.A.?

Of the 70 people who told us about their existing rent experience, 21 of them used the word "hate" at least once. Lots referred to slumlords. 

A common theme is people devoting huge chunks of paycheck to rent and feeling like they’re not getting much for their money. But at the same time, people aren’t wanting to move inland, where it’s more affordable. They value living in urban areas.

We invite you to share your story at kpcc.org. There’s a map where you can see what the expensive places to live are in Southern California.

 


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