LA County's "Affordable Housing Crisis"

- There are lots of apartments here in Los Angeles County. They're all over the place, but according to a new report they are too expensive for a lot of people who are suddenly finding themselves among LA County's poor.

One of those people, 50-year-old Sylvia Ortega, is living at LA Family Housing because she has nowhere else to go. “The economy is bad and there is no way for me to find a job," she says as she shows us her skimpy apartment. There are two beds. One for her and another for her 13-year-old daughter Alyssa.

Ortega gets $300 a month in public assistance. She can't find an apartment with that low an income. “When you’re a kid you don’t believe your life is going to turn out as it has right now. It’s just hard.” And, according to a new report from the California Housing Partnership Corporation, it’s harder than ever for some people.

Matt Schwartz is the CEO of California Housing Partnership Corporation. He says “high housing costs, in addition to people having top pay more rent, are actually driving Los Angeles families deeper and deeper into poverty.”

Schwartz says that since the year 2000 rental prices have increased nearly 30%. Incomes in lower income households has declined 7%. Moreover, he adds, the Federal poverty rate was at 18% for LA County,

but, it actually jumps to over 26% when you include housing costs and things related to the cost of living

“What that means," he says, "is more than one in four Los Angeles households is living in what our state defines as poverty and it’s primarily because of high housing costs.”

Estelita James is Sylvia Ortega's neighbor at L.A. Family Housing. “If it wasn’t for the grace of God I don’t know what I would do,” she laments.

James' monthly income from public assistance is $700 bucks. And, while that's embarrassing, she says, "not being able to tell the kids that we’re going to have permanent housing has been very difficult when the kids are asking how long is this going to be."

It could be some time. LA County Supervisor Hilda Solis says the amount of affordable housing needed for people like James and Ortega is mind boggling. “We know that we have a need to somehow deliver 500,000 more affordable homes here. That is amazing. It’s almost daunting.”

And, Stephanie Klasky-Gamer at LA Family Housing says it's also daunting how “you’ve got to make $38 an hour to afford a typical apartment. If you’re talking about minimum wage or someone making 10 or 15 dollars an hour… they can’t even afford a typical apartment.”
 

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