Those Screaming for Affordable Housing ‘No Matter What’ are Either Fools, Tools or Ghouls

ALPERN AT LARGE--It's easy to lionize or demonize the YIMBY's, as either pure-hearted volunteers or paid mercenaries by disgusting and greedy developers and wealthy landowners.

We DO have an affordable housing crisis, but the problem is, with those willing to SAY they're building affordable housing, they are only building a smidgen of affordable units. And, they continue to build lots of market-level housing. 

And, of course, market-level housing is anything BUT affordable. 

My accusation that those screaming for "more housing, no matter what" in order to get affordability is still loud and strong: you're either a Fool, a Tool, or a Ghoul. 

The Fools think that they'll get a shot at affordable housing ... just because. And then they realize that the projects get sold and built at a non-affordable rent or mortgage. The Fools may never come around to confronting reality, but it would be nice to see more "smell the coffee" and realize what will come their way, and what will not. 

The Tools are sincere, good and volunteering individuals who are just trying to do the right thing...and they'll discover with increasing frequency that the developers pushing and/or funding their efforts are just lying to them, and turning them into sad "useful idiots". The Tools are kind folks who, when they realize they're being betrayed, might wish to fight a more effective battle. 

Finally, there are the Ghouls: they know damn well that the new development is NOT affordable, WILL require cars, WON'T create enough parking and infrastructure to accommodate the new residents...but HEY, they made a few bucks.  Yay for them. 

The question of downtown vacancy rates being high is one that is complicated, but of little doubt is that they're (as with the rest of the City) not terribly affordable, or what units exist are just not very affordable. 

And some market forces are very perverse: foreign investors, particularly from China, are gobbling up homes and driving up prices to unaffordable levels for all Americans, including those of Chinese or other Asian descent. 

So what to do? The liars, cheats, ghouls, enabling politicians and planning zealots have driven out and marginalized those truly fighting for the middle class. Can we codify middle class and affordable housing? 

Of course--but it means stiff-arming the usual suspects and focusing on results: 

1) If Community Plans and Transit Zones have a whopping 40% of REQUIRED affordable housing (perhaps less, with a rate of only 25-30%%) along major commercial corridors, then we'll see a change. Having 5 or so affordable units for a planned 80-200 unit complex is just a big, fat lie to suggest that it'll have any tangible effect on affordable housing. 

2) Either affordable housing projects have NO parking, or it has to have enough parking to accommodate its residents and protect adjacent neighborhoods. That means senior, student, and workforce housing who will not have to rely on their cars and/or use transit. One way or another, we can't continue to have new developments use the infrastructure of their neighbors from day one. 

3) Commercial venues need to define what they'll need, and what they'll do, to have and accommodate their workers to live within walking or transit distance. Universities need to own up to their students needs. And aging in place and senior advocates need to get real about what seniors need, and that "senior affordable housing" does NOT include units with two cars each. 

Sincere, honest, and results-focused affordable housing will fix our problem, presuming that our civic leaders really WANT to fix the problem. More development doesn't meant the middle class, to say nothing of the homeless and even the wealthy, will have their lives improved. 

But more truly, no-holds-barred and legitimate affordable housing will restore the economy, environment, and quality of life for all Angelenos who are sober, adult, and shrewd about how to fix this festering and worsening problem in the City of the Angels. 


(Kenneth S. Alpern, M.D. is a dermatologist who has served in clinics in Los Angeles, Orange, and Riverside Counties, and is a proud husband and father to two cherished children and a wonderful wife. He is also a Westside Village Zone Director and Board member of the Mar Vista Community Council (MVCC), previously co-chaired its Planning and Outreach Committees, and currently is Co-Chair of its MVCC Transportation/Infrastructure Committee. He was co-chair of the CD11 Transportation Advisory Committee and chaired the nonprofit Transit Coalition and can be reached at alpern@marvista.org. He also co-chairs the grassroots Friends of the Green Line at www.fogl.us. The views expressed in this article are solely those of Dr. Alpern.)



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