A recent report examining the affordable-housing crisis in Los Angeles reveals that high housing costs are threatening the area’s fastest-growing industries.
Local business leaders say the issue extends into the Santa Clarita Valley and farther north, but there is hope.
The report “The Affordable Housing Crisis in Los Angeles: Impacts to L.A.’s Fastest Growing Companies” was released by the University of Southern California and the Los Angeles Business Council Institute.
The report identified these as the top three fastest-growing industries: health care and social assistance, accommodation and food services, and professional, scientific and technical services.
“Housing affordability is a significant concern for the Los Angeles workforce,” Gary Painter, director of the USC Sol Price Center for Social Innovation and the Homelessness Policy Research Institute, said in a prepared statement. “Commute times are increasing for homeowners who are unable to afford housing in the L.A. region, and housing costs are outpacing wage growth for renters.”
For example, the report found that L.A.’s tourism industry now accounts for more than 525,000 local jobs, but 69 percent of them earn less than $25,000 a year. Figures are similar in the area of home health aides, “forcing a large portion of these workers to live in poverty.”
The 74-page report also found that most firms have not implemented programs to help reduce the financial burdens of their employees and offered recommendations on housing-assistance resources.
How this is affecting areas like the SCV
While the report focuses in Los Angeles, where the issue “is especially dire,” residents of the SCV and other surrounding areas fall into affected areas.
The report found that in the downtown cluster, a substantial number of workers commute from suburbs like the SCV, Palmdale, Lancaster and anywhere from the east side to northeast L.A.
“This trend is extremely worrisome because there will be a breaking point for employees forced to choose between sky-high rents, substandard conditions or long commutes – and they are likely to pick getting out of L.A.,” Mary Leslie, president of the L.A. Business Council Institute, said in a statement.
Today, more workers are considering a “trade-off” when buying a home, according to Painter.
“When buying a home, they buy the one with the greater commute,” he said. “They choose to trade off amenities, and they have to do so farther away than renters. First-time homeowners are living farther away.”
Between 2005 and 2015, the report found, the number of workers traveling long distances to work in the downtown area increased between two and six minutes per day, a 7 percent rise in daily commute times.
With more people on the road longer and farther away, traffic on the roads in and around the Los Angeles area is worsening.
“People in the Santa Clarita Valley are driving 60 miles plus to work every day,” said Dean Vincent, chairman of the Santa Clarita Valley Division of the Southland Regional Association of Realtors. “We are seeing a lot of people from here, and even the Antelope Valley, come to L.A. That’s the congestion on the freeways.”
Homeowners in health care and social assistance, and in professional, scientific and technical service industries, face longer commute times than renters in the same field. Results were backward for those in accommodation and food services, as homeowners in these industries had a shorter commute than renters.
This may be due to the industries having a much larger share of lower-income workers, who may have fewer options of where to live as a result of rising housing costs.
“The burden is greatest for low-income employees, who face longer commutes and increasing housing costs, factors that can significantly impact one’s quality of life,” the report said.
Offering a solution
Simply put, the solution comes down to supply and demand, Vincent said.
“If we were to have 100,000 more homes today, it would dynamically change things,” he said. ”There would be more homes, but because we don’t have them, prices go up.”
Holly Schroeder, president and CEO of the SCV Economic Development Corp., said the lack of housing, particularly affordable housing, is not just in Los Angeles.
“Here in the Santa Clarita Valley, we have not been producing new housing at a rate needed to keep up with the population growth,” she said. “That is true across L.A. County. The rising cost is a challenge for our companies and our employers.”
The light at the end of the tunnel, Schroeder added, is that several new housing projects are underway to keep up with the demand of the population growth.
To help employers recruit and retain workers, the study recommends that a business offer housing-related assistance such as homebuyer education, relocation reimbursements and mortgage assistance. Public agencies could use tax abatement programs or discounted ground leases to reduce construction and maintenance costs in affordable units.
To view the full report, visit labusinesscouncil.org.