It's the last week in December, when according to tradition we make up a bunch of awards and hand them out to all the best, worst, and shitshowiest of things that happened in Los Angeles real estate, architecture, and neighborhoods this year. These are your 2014 Curbed Awards.
So many times in recent years, when we've looked back on the biggest trends in Los Angeles land use, we've found something delightful: in 2011, Los Angeles started getting serious about becoming bike-friendly; in 2012, LA street shutdowns were creating a new type of public gathering; in 2013, the LA River embarked on its slow-moving but ambitious renaissance. But in 2014, practically all we saw—over and over and depressingly over—was that Los Angeles was in a rental crisis and it's bad and there's no real fix in sight. It's not just that the rents are too high, it's also that the wages are too low, and the new construction is all for the rich. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti is pushing both for a higher minimum wage and for more reasonably-priced housing, but even if his campaigns are successful, they'll take years to have any effect. So, sorry to bum you out right before the New Year, but here's all the most downer stuff we learned about LA's rental crisis this year:
December 2013: At the very end of last year, we learned a pretty massive fact: 52 percent of people in Los Angeles are renters. The majority of people with homes in LA are paying rent to someone else. Hmmm.
January: In January, we saw a heatmap from Trulia that showed all of central Los Angeles in shades of red ranging from old blood to fresh blood.
March: Los Angeles is home to some of the most crowded zip codes in the country, with roommates and family members squeezing into smaller and smaller spaces just to make ends meet. The most crowded zip in the US is 90011, in Historic South-Central.
April: The New York Times revealed that a person earning the median income in Los Angeles would have to spend a staggering 47 percent of that income to afford the median rent in Los Angeles. In other words, the average rental costs nearly half of the average income. (Experts generally recommend renters pay no more than a third of their income toward housing.)
April: Not much later, we saw shocking maps from KPCC showing the census tracts where the majority of renters are spending more than the recommended 30 percent of their income on housing. Again: all red in central Los Angeles, with the exceptions of the Hills and the Westside.
April: And then we found out that rents in Los Angeles were going up faster than they are in completely unaffordable San Francisco (which has perhaps hit more of a ceiling).
May: Things are bad for average renters, but they're scarily bad for low-income renters. In LA, thousands of people are competing for just hundreds of affordable housing units and the city has had to slash its affordable housing trust fund while simultaneously projecting it'll need 82,000 new units by 2021.
May: Good news: construction is on the upswing! Bad news: it won't help, since almost all new apartments are expensive units in expensive neighborhoods.
May: And more bad news for low-income renters: LA County is 490,340 affordable housing units short of what it needs. In related news, median rents went up 25 percent between 2000 and 2012, while median income went down 9 percent over the same time.
June: 79 percent of LAPD employees and 84 percent of LAFD employees do not actually live in Los Angeles, largely because of housing costs.
June: Yes, we think we probably will keep raising rents, say 70 percent of LA County landlords.
June: 58.3 percent of Los Angeles renters are paying more than the recommended 30 percent of their income toward housing and 32.8 percent (one-third of all renters!) are paying more than 50 percent.
July: While rents still rose in the second quarter, they rose a little less than they had been, mostly because no one could afford to pay them anymore, on account of the low wages.
August: Some historical context from a UCLA study: LA homeowners have been earning about twice as much as renters since 1980. Since 1970, rents have gone up 175 percent in LA (outpacing the US as a whole), but median income has stayed just about flat (barely outpacing the US), while stock is actually less tight today than it was 40 years ago. The problem really is low wages more than anything else.
August: When you factor in transportation costs, Los Angeles is only the fifth most unaffordable city for the "typical" household. But for poor people and singles, it's fucking terrible: low-income groups pay 54 percent of their incomes toward housing and transportation, while single workers pay 74 percent. Very low-income single workers have to pay 121 percent of their incomes.
September: Hey, the City Council is talking about raising the minimum wage to $13.25 an hour, gradually over the next three years. Oh, that still makes Los Angeles housing completely unaffordable for anyone with a family.
September: Oh, and rents are headed up again, BTW.
October: The vacancy rate has plummeted since 2013, falling to just 3.3 percent, according to a USC report. Here's a researcher: "Though the economy and employment have improved, renters' incomes are stagnant. So while net absorption and occupancy rates are moving in the right direction, affordability continues to worsen."
December: Don't worry, this is almost over. This month we learned that you have to make $48.58 an hour working full-time with only two weeks vacation ($97,160) to afford the average Los Angeles rental.