Crossing the Frederick Douglass–Susan B. Anthony Memorial Bridge on a brisk spring morning in Rochester, New York, the first thing one sees is a small tent city scattered about the banks of the Genesee River. It’s a sprawl of black tarps, folding chairs, and a charcoal grill, all set up on private land. The property’s owner, a cable company called Spectrum, has attempted for some time to tear it down, urging local officials to clear the encampment.
When Rosalina Hernández and her husband moved into their studio apartment on Los Angeles Street in South Central LA 15 years ago, the place was just for the two of them and the baby they were expecting. Back then, it wasn’t too hard to find what they needed: an apartment they could afford with just a bit more space.
An array of bills aimed at easing California’s housing crisis, from banning fees on “granny flats” to pushing housing development on BART property, cleared a key hurdle on Friday, while others died quietly in fiscal committees.
One such fatality was a proposal to help teachers and other middle-income tenants live closer to their jobs , one of many bills aiming to shore up the supply of badly needed affordable housing for low- and middle-income families. California housing officials estimate that shortfall has ballooned to a staggering 3.5 million homes.
On his way to a doctor’s appointment, Steve Schneider sits at a bus stop in North Park on Tuesday afternoon surrounded by trendy coffee shops, tattoo parlors and mustachioed hipsters sipping craft beer.
The 68-year-old has lived in the neighborhood for 25 years, but in just the last four, he’s seen his rent jumped from $850 to $1,275. As an epileptic on a fixed income, he cannot drive and has recently started to fear he may have to move and lose access to transit.
Four years ago, Chelsea Lutz moved to Los Angeles from Cleveland to pursue a career writing and directing films.
"I needed a really cheap apartment," she said. She found one in Koreatown, where she didn't particularly want to live, but it was all she could afford.
Today, Lutz, 28, shares a rent-controlled, one-bedroom apartment in the Miracle Mile area with her fiance.
"My rent's expensive, but it's not crazy expensive," Lutz said. "But eventually I want to get a house and that's worrisome because I want to be close to my job."
Two years ago, City Limits wrote about an affordable housing preservation deal under Mayor Bloomberg that tenants and advocates say was disastrous and non-transparent, leading to skyrocketing rents and evictions for many tenants. Those tenants, with the support of Legal Services Corporation A and the Cypress Hills Local Development Corporation, have now filed a class-action federal lawsuit against the owner as well as the federal and city agencies who signed off on the deal.
As the price of housing in California spirals out of reach, more than half of Los Angeles County residents fear being priced out of living in the region, and younger residents are even more apprehensive.
Fifty-five percent of LA County residents said they, a close friend or family member have considered moving from their neighborhood in the last few years due to rising housing costs, according to the 2018 Quality of Life Index.
Affordable Housing, Displacement, and Regional Housing Needs
The elephant in the housing legislation room is S.B. 827, authored by Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco). This bill, which has sparked furious debate among housing and economic justice advocates since it was introduced in February, will get its first committee hearing Tuesday when it goes before the State Senate’s Transportation and Housing Committee.
Family photos, Bible verse decals and wedding mementos adorn Jimmy Mejia and Patty Garrido's living room walls in South Los Angeles. Despite their efforts, the decorations can't mask the unpatched holes in the ceiling and the roaches that crawl around their kitchen. In one corner, there's a hole where the drywall caved in after a recent storm.
"The heater doesn't work, so in the winter it's really hard; it gets really cold here," Mejia said.
Predictably, a number of affluent Bay Area suburbs (and the anti-development neighborhood groups that have come to characterize them in national news reports) are up-in-arms over SB 827, the now (in)famous legislation to fast-track development near transit stations across the state, introduced by State Senator Scott Weiner (D-San Francisco) in January. But just as the bill’s many opponents can’t be stereotyped, the cities embracing its core tenets are often surprising.