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Address potential adverse impacts to housing affordability and people experiencing homelessness.

As housing costs have increased in LA County, so too has the number of persons experiencing homelessness. The LA River has become a home for some unsheltered residents.
Mary Newcombe, JDPW LA River, 2013. Source License: CC BY 2.0.

Housing costs for LA County residents have been steadily increasing for decades.

The median owner-occupied home value has nearly doubled, from $298,800 to $583,200 between 2000 and 2019 (in 2019 dollars). Among renters, the percentage of household income spent on housing went up from 28 to 34% in the same time period.1U.S. Census Bureau, Census 2000 Summary File 3, Table H070, 2000; U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey 2015–2019 5-Year Estimates, Table B25071, 2021. About a third (29%) of renters in the county are severely rent burdened, meaning they spend more than half of their income on rent.2U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey 2015–2019 5-Year Estimates, Table B25070, 2021. As housing costs have risen, so has the number of people experiencing homelessness, which now nears 70,000 people across LA County. Approximately 8,500 persons experiencing homelessness are living in neighborhoods adjacent to the river.3California Housing Partnership Corporation, CSH, Los Angeles County Annual Affordable Housing Outcomes Report, April 2019. 4This count along the river assumes a proportional share of people based on census tract areas within the 1-mile buffer of the river. Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, “2020 Homeless County Data By Census Tract” (2020); City of Glendale, “2020 Homelessness Count Report” (2020), City of Long Beach, “2020 Long Beach Point-In-Time Count Statistic Summary” (2020); City of Pasadena, “2020 Homeless Count” (2020).

As the LA River moves toward the vision of becoming 51 miles of connected open space, it is critical to consider how this vision will impact housing and homelessness. With the goal of increasing parks and open space, there is potential to negatively impact housing affordability. To improve neighborhoods without causing negative effects of displacement, a proactive approach is imperative. As part of the Lower LA River Revitalization Plan,5 community stakeholders outlined a toolkit of community stabilization strategies. Building on that prior work, the Master Plan is committed to considering issues of housing in parallel with planned and proposed multi-benefit projects, including parks and infrastructure improvements. Projects can be strengthened on this front through collaborations with agencies and non-profits with displacement prevention policies in place. Partnerships with research institutions working to better understand displacement trends are equally critical; constantly re-evaluating how and why connections between displacement and improvements such as new parks exist can inform strategies for serving communities of high need that do not, in fact, put those communities at further risk. Clearing pathways to homeownership is yet another strategy that can transform the housing landscape of LA County and help generations of Angelenos move toward self-sufficiency.


Steps that should be taken to achieve the goal

LA River Housing Affordability Need
LA County Housing Affordability Need Ruler.
OLIN, 2019.

Needs: Housing Affordability

Areas with a high displacement risk have a high need for tools to address housing affordability.

While affordable housing is needed through LA County, the need for affordable housing at a given location was evaluated by analyzing that community’s existing risk of displacement. The mapping of housing affordability need should only be used as a reference to determine appropriate housing strategies after sites for new infrastructure or parks projects are known.
LA County Map
LA County Affordable Housing Need.
OLIN, 2021.
The Displacement Index combines a variety of socioeconomic indicators to measure the risk of displacement based on 2017 research by the Urban Displacement Project, an initiative of the University of California at Berkeley. Areas with a high risk of displacement have a very high need for affordable housing, while areas that have already experienced displacement or have a low risk of displacement have a general need. The displacement risk analysis groups census tracts into the following categories based on demographic, economic, and housing characteristics: Vulnerable to Displacement: might be at risk of being priced out if changes caused prices to rise. At Risk of Displacement: there are vulnerable populations and physical and economic conditions that elevate the risk of displacement. Ongoing Displacement: were low income in 2000 and have seen changes in demographic makeup between 2000 and 2019. Advanced Displacement: community demographics and home values have already changed significantly. Not Vulnerable: not in any of the above categories. Because areas experiencing advanced displacement have already changed significantly, there is little opportunity for new affordable housing to stem the tide of displacement. The need for affordable housing goes up through the categories of vulnerable to displacement, at risk of displacement, and ongoing displacement. This need analysis is intended to focus the majority of the proposed affordable housing in areas that have been identified as being at the greatest risk for displacement. However, affordable housing units do not necessarily need to fall exactly into tracts of each displacement category. Instead, housing should be targeted to sub-areas (or frames) of the river. Exact unit placement will depend on land availability. Increasing the number of affordable units in a particular frame of the river reduces competition for existing low-cost units, which benefits everyone in that segment of the housing market in that area.

Sites with Very High Need for Housing Affordability


Design Components that Address Housing Affordability

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