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The Side-Effects of Housing Density

Analysis from the Terner Center of Housing and Innovation from the University of California-Berkeley found that cities that prohibit high-density zoning have residents whose earnings are higher than those of their workforce in California. 

The study, authored by Noah J. Durst, Assistant Professor of Urban and Regional Planning, Michigan State University, revealed cities that offer affordable housing and that do not impose minimum lot size restriction on ADUs have a better balance between the number of residents and workers and the share of affordable housing to low-income workers.

Durst examined the relationship between land-use regulation and six indicators of spatial mismatch. Three of the indicators measure “imbalances between employment and housing opportunities” and three measure the commute burden experienced by workers.  

His report found that the city of Los Angeles has 827,902 workers who live in the city, but has 432,426 workers who earn less than $1,250 a month. The number of housing units that cost less than $800 month is $250,266—resulting in a negative correlation of 0.38%. 

Los Angeles has a total workforce population of 1.75 million, but the number of employed residents is 1.6 million. 

More than 56% (1.1 million) of workers in Los Angeles commute more than 30 minutes to work. 

Durst, concluding his study, found that cities that offer more affordable housing incentives have a more balanced resident-worker population, better low-income housing fit, and fewer workers with commutes of more than 30 minutes. 

The Golden State has been grappling with Senate Bill 50 for several months, including a new version of the bill that was introduced earlier in January, according to the Los Angeles Daily News. 

Previous versions of the bill, authored by State Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), have been rejected due to local control concerns and the proposal was delayed by the Senate Appropriations Committee late last year. 

The report states some developers and “Yes in My Backyard” organizations back the strategy, including San Fernando Valley groups Pacoima Beautiful and Pacoima Community Housing Corporation. 

Under SB 50, communities in California would see increased housing development in densely populated areas and lower-density neighborhoods would be mandated to allow four or five-story apartment buildings near rail lines and smaller apartments and townhomes near job centers. 

About Author: Mike Albanese

A graduate of the University of Alabama, Mike Albanese has worked for news publications since 2011 in Texas and Colorado. He has built a portfolio of more than 1,000 articles, covering city government, police and crime, business, sports, and is experienced in crafting engaging features and enterprise pieces. He spent time as the sports editor for the "Pilot Point Post-Signal," and has covered the DFW Metroplex for several years. He has also assisted with sports coverage and editing duties with the "Dallas Morning News" and "Denton Record-Chronicle" over the past several years.

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