High rents’ toll

Study shows po­ten­tial im­pact of a 5% rent in­crease on L.A. County pop­u­la­tion.

Los Angeles Times - - CALIFORNIA - By Gale Hol­land gale.hol­land@la­times.com Twit­ter: @gehol­land

A 5% hike would push 2,000 in L.A. County into home­less­ness, a Zil­low study finds.

A 5% rent hike in Los An­ge­les County would push 2,000 more res­i­dents into home­less­ness, a study of the ef­fect of ris­ing hous­ing costs warns.

The study was con­ducted by the real es­tate firm Zil­low us­ing cen­sus fig­ures and home­less counts for the 25 largest U.S. met­ro­pol­i­tan ar­eas.

Re­search has shown that ris­ing rents drive up home­less rates, par­tic­u­larly in cities with se­vere hous­ing short­ages such as Los An­ge­les. Zil­low said it ap­plied its own rental rate data to the es­tab­lished for­mula re­flect­ing the con­nec­tion to come up with new es­ti­mates.

The study, cit­ing re­search that shows weak­nesses in street and shel­ter counts, also said that L.A. County’s home­less pop­u­la­tion was more than 61,000 in Jan­uary, com­pared with the 58,000 re­ported by lo­cal of­fi­cials af­ter the an­nual count held that month.

Lend­ing ur­gency to its find­ings, Zil­low has fore­cast a 4.5% rent in­crease in Los An­ge­les for the com­ing year.

“If Greater Los An­ge­les isn’t able to add hous­ing, the pres­sure is go­ing to con­tinue to build,” Zil­low se­nior econ­o­mist Sky­lar Olsen said in an in­ter­view.

Den­nis P. Cul­hane, a pro­fes­sor and home­less­ness re­searcher at the Univer­sity of Penn­syl­va­nia, said the com­pany’s rental data was bet­ter than that used in ear­lier analy­ses of rent hikes’ ef­fect on home­less­ness.

“I thought it was an ex­cel­lent study,” said Cul­hane, who re­viewed the Zil­low re­port. “Few peo­ple have ac­cess to rental mar­ket data like Zil­low.”

Olsen said the study found that rent in­creases are closely tied to bur­geon­ing home­less­ness in Los An­ge­les, Seat­tle and New York City, where there is lit­tle low­in­come hous­ing for peo­ple priced out of gen­tri­fy­ing neigh­bor­hoods to re­treat to.

Los An­ge­les’ rental va­cancy rate is 2.6%, lower than New York’s or San Fran­cisco’s, the Los An­ge­les Home­less Ser­vices Author­ity re­ported this spring.

In met­ro­pol­i­tan ar­eas with higher va­cancy rates, such as Hous­ton and Tampa, the con­nec­tion between rent in­creases and home­less­ness is weaker, Olsen said.

The L.A. Home­less Ser­vices Author­ity blamed rent in­creases for a 26% surge in home­less­ness from 2016 to 2017.

More than a quar­ter of Los An­ge­les res­i­dents spend more than 30% of their in­come on hous­ing, the agency said. While the me­dian rent, ad­justed for in­fla­tion, jumped 28% from 2000 to 2014, renter in­come de­clined 8%, it re­ported.

Both Olsen and Cul­hane said rent in­creases work in­di­rectly as well as di­rectly to drive poor peo­ple into the streets. Those who give much of their in­come over to land­lords can’t save for un­ex­pected med­i­cal bills or job losses. So when the cri­sis hits, they lose their homes.

“It’s not per­sonal vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties of drug use or ill­ness driv­ing home­less­ness,” Cul­hane said. “It’s a lack of ac­cess to hous­ing. If there were lots of avail­able hous­ing, all of th­ese vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties would be hid­den.”

‘It’s not per­sonal vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties of drug use or ill­ness driv­ing home­less­ness. It’s a lack of ac­cess to hous­ing.’ — Den­nis P. Cul­hane, pro­fes­sor and home­less­ness re­searcher at the Univer­sity of Penn­syl­va­nia

Mar­cus Yam Los An­ge­les Times

REAL ES­TATE firm Zil­low pre­dicted that a 5% rent in­crease would add 2,000 peo­ple to L.A. County’s home­less pop­u­la­tion, which it es­ti­mated at 61,000 — and the com­pany fore­cast a 4.5% rent in­crease in the next year.


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