Affordable housing production is insufficient, UCLA report finds

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The second of six papers published on Culver City by Masters’ program students at the UCLA Lewis Center for Regional Studies focuses on the affordable housing crisis in Culver City, and concluded that housing production has focused far too heavily on high income housing.

The ratio of housing units to jobs dropped from .42 in 2002 to .29 in 2017, and Culver City added only 300 new housing units over last 10 years, compared to over 20,000 new jobs

Income and race are most diverse in areas with multi family housing zones, as well as the transit ridership rate, but land share significantly smaller than single family zoning. 36 percent were single-family (detached), 40% were in buildings of 2-20 units, and 24% were in buildings with over 20 units. New developments are overwhelmingly single family, recently approved permits “uphold single-family dominance” From 2010-2018, 71 single family houses were permitted by the city, compared to just 47 multi-family housing units.

This has played a significant part in property values high, vacancy rates low, and minimal development of affordable housing units in Culver City, according to the report

The average rent for a two-bedroom in Culver City is $3,239—a household would have to make $130,000 to afford this rent. This has resulted in 48.4% of Culver City renters being rent burdened.

Median housing prices skyrocketed as well, increasing from $240,000 in 2000 to $950,000 in 2018, and the report argues that this could be a disaster for the City’s future.

“If current patterns persist, Culver City will only build new housing for a small subset of its highest wage workers…housing demand is growing so rapidly at all levels that these new developments are just a drop in the bucket. Such a passive response to a housing affordability crisis is unacceptable,” the report says.

The report suggests a variety of changes, both significant and minor, to alleviate some of these issues.

The first suggestion is the most feasible one and is currently in the works for Culver City: rent control.

“Enacting a permanent rent control ordinance that builds on current interim measures is the broadest way for Culver City to protect renters in its aging rental housing stock,” the introduction of the rent control section reads.

The report also suggests anti-harassment measures, similar to what is seen in West Hollywood. This would protect tenants from other, more roundabout ways to attempt to remove a tenant, including fraud, abuse, or general “harassment that would make them feel uncomfortable enough to leave their housing situation.”

However, the report notes that rent control does come with high costs because of the administrative costs that come with it. 

“The city must provide additional resources to the administrative body that will handle unit registration, determine annual rent increases, investigate violations, and enforce eviction protections and relocation benefits.”

Another suggestion would be the modification of zoning and development requirements in Culver City. Specifically, the report suggests removing the ground floor retail requirement in mixed-use projects, which decreases financial feasbility, according to developers. Currently, Culver City’s zoning code mandates that any project in a commercial zone have a commercial use on the ground floor. Changing this to allow for a variety of ground floor uses in buildings, such as community art and additional residential units, could be used at a more reasonable cost.

Additionally, with the surplus in parking in many areas of the city, removing this requirement would open up area that would have been required for parking space for commercial development.

More radical proposals included making all residential developments ‘by-right,’ and halting single family home production until the 2002 jobs to housing ratio is achieved.

A by-right ordinance would make development easier and cheaper by expiditing the approval process. By-right uses are those that do not require further governmental approval beyond what is needed to receive a building permit.

Currently, only one and two unit developments are by-right. By including all residential developments, the low-density character of the city might be compromised, but the city should correct its housing by 2029, according to the report.