Following up on How Mixed Income Cross Subsidies Work
In 1950, California voters passed Proposition 10 that became Article 34 of our state constitution which bans construction of publicly-financed low-income housing unless a majority of voters approve.
Guess how many were approved in higher income, whiter areas?
You don't have to guess, because California has created the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing Map, so you can see exactly where they are. Not surprisingly, Public Housing (the publicly-owned ones targeted by Article 34) are rarely in the wealthy suburban areas of Los Angeles County, where the excellent schools and abundant jobs are.
Notice how many of them are clustered around Freeways. Funny how areas with poor people attract freeways and how the only places that don't encounter NIMBY opposition to low-income housing is next to freeways.
But, didn't I write in the last post that there were subsidized homes in Redondo Beach? Yes, but there are different types of subsidized homes. The ones I showed last time are part of a mixed-income community, cross-subsidized by other residents of that complex--not the government. They don't even show up on this map because they don't use public funds (except some minor administration).
If we visualize government-Subsidized Housing, funded by HUD and LIHTC, you can see that they are more broadly dispersed, but still concentrated in certain areas.
HUD (yellow) = Housing and Urban Development, funding directly from the Federal Department of Housing
LIHTC (red) = Low Income Housing Tax Credit, a Reagan-era program created in 1986 that substitutes direct federal dollars with tax credits for private developers. It's very complex, but it's the biggest program in use today.
Click on each red or yellow dot to learn more about each development.
My mother lived in a LIHTC home for a few years after maintaining her old house was too much for her and before she needed assisted living. We submitted paperwork each year to requalify her for below-market-rate (BMR) rent. (In Silicon Valley, paying $2200+/mo for a 1 modern bedroom apartment is considered a great deal and worth giving her landlord an $800/mo tax subsidy over full market-rate rent.)
To create any kind of subsidized affordable units, you have to build in the first place. If you block all new housing, you can block subsidized housing without explicitly saying that is your intent.
That gets us to the last line of affordability, Federal Housing Choice Vouchers aka Section 8. Once you secure one (and you can spend decades waiting for your area's waiting list to open and then decades waiting to move up the waiting list to get a voucher), then you have to find a home whose rent is low enough to qualify for the program.
The map below shows the percentage of rentals in each census tract that are rented using Section 8 vouchers. Click on each Census Tract to get details of how many units that represents. If you have only one rental 4-plex building in a census tract, but it is all Section 8, then that shows up as 100% and dark brown. If you have 3000 rentals in another census tract, and 400 of them are Section 8, then it shows up in a lighter color. But the second tract is providing more affordable homes.
People can't use Section 8 vouchers in your neighborhood if you block apartments from being built in your neighborhood.
If there are apartments, landlords used to be able to discriminate and refuse to take Section 8 voucher holders. But, laws have changed.
That brings us to the biggest impediment in my area, the lack of units whose rents are low enough to qualify for the program. After all, the government should subsidize basic, not luxury homes, right?
The HUD Fair Market Rent is set on a regional level, so it's supposed to be an average of Los Angeles, Long Beach and Santa Ana. But, that regional average rent doesn't stretch to the rents in most high opportunity areas. Try finding a 2 bedroom apartment in southwest Los Angeles County for $1330-1708/mo in 2021. This is another reason there are no or very few Section 8 beneficiaries in many census tracts.
If you have more time to kill, explore the AFFH map further. Click on the squares at the upper left to expose menus of datasets you can layer. For instance, select Jobs Proximity Index. The blue areas have the best access to high numbers of good-paying jobs. The red areas have the least access (by both car and transit). Notice how comparatively few subsidized homes are in the blue areas?
If we are going to reduce Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions and air pollution, we need to move people closer to their jobs. No, that does not mean shipping jobs to the desert. It means that we densify the already developed areas. Unfortunately, this is considered intensification of land use and is very hard to do under existing law.
Do we change the human laws or do we ignore the physical laws that govern climate change?