Building Livable Communities – the Annual Housing, Transportation & Jobs Summit

On October 4, the Los Angeles Business Council hosted the 2012 Mayoral Housing, Transportation and Jobs Summit at UCLA. For over a decade now, the LABC has been organizing these discussions of issues with elected officials, business leaders and members of the community.

The report released at this year’s Summit, Building Livable Communities: Enhancing Economic Competitiveness in Los Angeles, describes how rising rents, a shortage of new residential development and still inflated home prices that remain well beyond the reach of middle-income families in Los Angeles County are causing a widening affordability gap for Southern California residents.

Failing to adequately address the problem will cause Los Angeles to become far less attractive to current and future employers, and less competitive against other metropolitan areas where quality and affordable workforce housing is in far greater supply.  Of the large metropolitan areas discussed, only New York and San Francisco had less affordable housing.

“The vast majority of housing units in the County are unaffordable to the typical worker. With housing production 40 percent below target levels, the problem will only grow when you factor in the laws of supply and demand,” said Paul Habibi, the lead author of the report and a professor of real estate at the UCLA Anderson School of Management.

One idea emphasized by this report is the need to expand our thinking about the link between transportation and housing from Transit Oriented Developments to Transit Corridors.

This illustration shows how the addition of a first/last mile transit system, in this case a mobility hub, to the traditional TOD model can vastly increase the amount of developable land around transit and enhance existing housing’s connection to transit. Further, increasing this developable footprint allows for the development of workforce housing on less expensive plots of land, diminishing the need for excessive subsidies or gap financing tools in order to develop new workforce housing.

In general, this idea is consistent with the research of the Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT) and their “H+T /Affordability Index” that demonstrates how the net cost of housing and commuting seems to remain relatively constant for households, and reducing the cost of commuting through location-efficient housing development will benefit residents, as well as reducing vehicle miles traveled (VMT) and all of the external costs associated with travel.

All of this supports California’s goal of reducing greenhouse gases through the Sustainable Communities Strategies (SCS) mandated by SB 375, the Sustainable Communities and Climate Protection Act of 2008.

The Southern California Association of Governments has completed drafting the SCS for our region, and now we all have to devise effective ways to implement it.  The Summit helped to further that effort, and will keep that discussion going throughout the coming years.