SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA ASSOCIATION OF NONPROFIT HOUSING www.scanph.org
Please contact Lisa Payne, Policy Director at SCANPH Email: firstname.lastname@example.org<mailto:email@example.com Phone: (213) 480-1249, ext. 235
Research Concept Paper: Ensuring Sustainable Commutes for Los Angeles City Workers The Southern California Association of NonProfit Housing (SCANPH) would like to research what it would take to sustainably house people who work in major employment centers in the City of Los Angeles. We are in the concept stage of a possible research project. We seek assistance in shaping the project and helping with research. Executive Summary The 70 rail transit stations that are currently planned or operating, plus the 11 new rail lines or extensions that will be built through the revenue raised through Measure R, are poised to change the landscape of metropolitan Los Angeles. The expectation is that most new development in the City of Los Angeles will occur around the transit stops, creating dense, transit villages where residents ride the transit to and from work and other activities. SCANPH, however, believes that whether this type of development pattern will really create a more sustainable region may depend on whether most workers will be able to live within reasonable access to transit so that they can use the transit system for their work commutes. While the median income of households living around the current transit system is under $30,000 annually and the average household size is over three people, most of the new housing built around transit in Los Angeles targets one- or two-person households making at least $80,000 annually. This pattern of development has the strong potential to gentrify the areas around the transit stops, a process which tends to increase car ownership in those areas and decrease transit ridership. Since core transit riders tend to be people of color, we are also concerned that such gentrification may have a particularly negative effect on certain ethnic groups. SCANPH would thus like to look at whether the city’s housing around its job centers and transit system ―fits‖ with its jobs, both in terms of numbers of homes vs. numbers of jobs and in terms of earnings of workers and cost of housing. SCANPH would further like to establish what it would take for Los Angeles to house its workers sustainably – so that all workers would have a reasonable work commute using the transit system. Ideally, SCANPH would like to do this by looking both at the city as an aggregate and by taking a few employment centers and plotting visually how the households of the workers in those job centers could be sustainably housed.
Measure R and the Stateâ€™s Efforts to Create Sustainable Communities Will Reshape Land Use in Los Angeles. Metropolitan Los Angeles is about to undergo the most significant change in land use since the construction of the freeway system. Currently, there are 70 operating or planned transit stations in the City of Los Angeles. Two years ago, Los Angeles county voters passed Measure R, which will add 11 new rail lines or extensions, most of which will also be in the city. Supporting this effort at the state level is SB 375, enacted in 2008 to encourage California regions to plan for future housing and transportation needs in a way that reduces the use of cars as a primary means of transportation. The expectation is that instead of building out areas increasingly further from the urban core, most new development will be near transit stations, particularly in the City of Los Angeles. Many planners and developers expect that this new development will be pedestrian- and bike-friendly, mixed-use, much taller, denser and with fewer parking amenities. SCANPH, however, believes that whether this type of development pattern will really create a more sustainable region, made up of more sustainable communities, may depend on whether most workers will be able to live within reasonable access to transit so they can easily use transit to commute to and from work.
Homes Around Transit Are Generally Not Built For or Priced Within Reach of Local Working Families or Core Transit Riders. Los Angeles is a city with a low-wage workforce. Nearly half of all workers in the city make under $25,000 per year, and over three-quarters make under $50,000.1 Likewise, low-income families have historically lived near public transportation â€”often the same areas that are adjacent to new urban rail systems. The median household income of families living around the 70 Los Angeles transit stations was under $30,000, as of the 2000 census; their average household size was over three people.2 Most of the new rental housing that has been built around these transit stations, however, has been built for single people or couples making at least $80,000 per year.3 Where this pattern of gentrification continues, we fear the median income of residents around transit may rise dramatically. We are also concerned that this rise in prices may drive many of the core transit riders out of the area, a group of people that tends to be predominantly people of color and low-income. Such a pattern was evident when researchers at the Dukakis Center at Northeastern University looked at what happened to neighborhoods around new rail transit across the country.4 The Dukakis Center study found that the predominant pattern was for median incomes in neighborhoods around transit stations to rise, particularly those around light rail stations in low-income neighborhoods. The study further found that rising incomes often coincided with a rise in vehicle ownership, and a slower rise in transit use, or in some cases, a more rapid decline, than in the metro area as a whole. In effect, when core transit riders were priced out of the housing market around transit, transit ridership did not rise as expected.
U.S. Census Bureau, 2005-2007 American Community Survey, TableB20001. Center for Transit-Oriented Development, Creating Successful Transit-Oriented Districts in Los Angeles: A Citywide Toolkit for Achieving Regional Goals, Feb. 2010, http://latod.reconnectingamerica.org/executivesummary, Ex. Sum. at 9. 3 Conversatin with Kelly Boyer, Director, Multifamily HUB for LA, US Department of Housing & Urban Development, September 2010. 4 Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy, Maintaining Diversity in Americaâ€™s Transit-Rich Neighborhoods: Tools for Equitable Neighborhood Change, Oct. 2010, http://www.northeastern.edu/dukakiscenter/documents/TRN_Equity_final.pdf. 2
SCANPH Believes that Ensuring That There Are a Sufficient Number of Homes Affordable to Area Workers Is Essential to Achieving a Sustainable Community. Many studies recognize that there needs to be a jobs-housing balance – that is, a sufficient number of homes around job centers and transit to house the area workers – in order to get a large number of people out of their cars for the commute to and from work. 5 SCANPH, however, believes that in order for the city and region to decrease car trips, there may need to be sufficient housing around the transit stops that is affordable to most of the city workers. Thus, in addition to seeking a jobs-housing balance, SCANPH thinks that the region may also need to seek to achieve a ―jobs-housing fit.‖ The jobs-housing fit takes into account the relationship between wages and housing costs in a particular location. It begins with the ―jobs-housing balance‖ and disaggregates it by income level. Unfortunately, the Southern California Association of Government’s (SCAG) Regional Comprehensive Plan: Helping Communities Achieve a Sustainable Future does not suggest that achieving a jobs-housing fit is worth striving for; and, indeed, Joseph Carreras, the SCAG Housing Program Manager, has indicated that such an analysis is unnecessary for the SCAG region. 6
SCANPH Would Like to Illustrate What It Would Look Like to Sustainably House the Workers in Particular Los Angeles Employment Centers. SCANPH would like to explore whether there is a need for a better jobs-housing fit in the city of Los Angeles, and if so, what a true ―fit‖ would look like. One way may be to look at the city as an aggregate – the number of jobs at certain wages and what amount of housing at what affordability levels around transit stops would there need to be to ensure a reasonable work commute for all workers and their families without using a car. Specifically, we think we would like to answer the following questions: 1. What kind of housing exists in TOD areas now? 2. What kind of housing is being built? 3. What, if any, effect is the new housing having on the already existing housing? 4. Who is currently living around rail transit stops and what is their current use of transit? 5. What kind of housing ought to exist to accommodate Los Angeles workers and their families? 6. What are policies that can ensure that there is the right kind of housing around transit stops in Los Angeles?
For example, in 2008, the Los Angeles Business Council released the Workforce Housing Scorecard for Los Angeles, which looked at the ratio of jobs to housing units but did not examine job salaries or housing unit costs. Los Angeles Business Council, Workforce Housing Scorecard for Los Angeles,2008, http://labusinesscouncil.org/online_documents/2008/WHSC_Final.pdf. Similarly, In the land use and housing section of its Regional Comprehensive Plan: Helping Communities Achieve a Sustainable Future, the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) sums up the importance of promoting improved jobs-housing balance throughout the region as follows: ―Locating new housing near jobs, new employment centers near housing, and both housing and jobs near transit and other transportation corridors will shorten commutes and allow commuting options other than single occupancy vehicles.‖ Southern California Association of Governments, Final 2008 Regional Comprehensive Plan, Helping Communities Achieve a Sustainable Future, 2008, http://www.scag.ca.gov/rcp/pdf/finalrcp/f2008RCP_Complete.pdf. 6
Comments by Joseph Carreras as a panel member on What is SB 375? How Could It Result in More Affordable Housing?, SCANPH 22nd Annual Housing Conference, Oct. 1, 2010. Carreras indicated that he did not see an issue with a jobshousing fit in the SCAG region because households in the outlying areas often made more than households in the cities.
As referenced previously, some assumptions and premises underlying this project are: 1. Most Los Angeles workers and their families are unable to afford the new market-rate housing that is being built in the city. 2. Most of the market-rate housing that will be built around transit stops will be too expensive for most Los Angeles workers. 3. To create a sustainable city, workers need to be able to live around a transit station within a reasonable transit commute from their work. 4. Workers will live around transit stops if they can afford it and if the rail transit can take them where they need to go. We would like help in thinking through and critiquing the questions we are asking and the premises behind the project. We would also like help in figuring out how best to design such a study. Finally, we would also like to figure out if there is a way to make this more comprehensible and concrete by looking at one or two major employment centers and determining how much housing affordable to what income levels would need to be located at what distance from the employment center to sustainably house the workers and their families. Some employment centers and surrounding food and retail we might consider are: Kaiser Sunset and other healthcare facilities at the VermontSunset transit stop, USC, UCLA, White Memorial, and Universal Studios/City Walk. We believe that illustrating and mapping what it would take to sustainably house workers at a particular, widely known employment center would help bring home the meaning of the compilation of data showing what it would take to sustainably house all city workers. While we believe that this is an exciting concept, we need others to help give shape to this project by making comments, raising issues, recommending methodologies, and/or suggesting further areas of inquiry. For example, we need help in identifying all the data we would need to collect and how to collect it. One issue weâ€™re already trying to solve is how to translate the wages of area workers into household income. What assumptions do we make about worker household size?7 Another need we have is for input from experts in fields other than housing to give us guidance about what constitutes a reasonable transit commute. Also, weâ€™d like to know if there are other related issues that we have not yet considered that we should examine in this project.
Assumptions about the income and size of households that include a particular worker are routinely made in nexus studies showing the impacts of commercial and market-rate housing development on the need for affordable housing. In those studies, commissioned by local governments, researchers look at the jobs created directly or indirectly as a result of a particular kind of development and then estimate the size and incomes of the households to which the workers who hold those jobs belong. The estimated size and incomes of the households determine the need for affordable housing generated by the development. See, for example, Hamilton, Rabinovitz & Alschuler,Inc., 2005 Update: The Nexus Between New Market Rate Multi-Family Developments in the City of Santa Monica and the Need for Affordable Housing, http://www01.smgov.net/housing/Nexus%20Study%202005.pdf.; Keyser Marston Associates, Inc. Jobs Housing Nexus Study, prepared for City of San Diego, Oct. 2010, http://www.sdhc.net/uploadedFiles/Special_Housing_Programs/Final%20Housing%20Impact%20Fee%20Nexus%20Study %2011-2-10%5B1%5D.pdf. Does it make sense to use such estimates and extrapolations in the study we are proposing?