Letters to the Editor

LA County is a champion

Editor:

Already, we are seeing the ramifications of climate change from intense heat waves reaching triple digits to the record-breaking season of wildfires. 

LA County has been a leader in environmental policy and needs to keep making the necessary strides to pave the way for other counties, both in California and across the nation. 

California has the ambitious goal of selling only electric cars by 2035, which could have an astonishing impact on the local environment that has been plaguing the residents of Los Angeles. 

Right now, more than 38 million Californians — about 98% of the state’s population — experienced over 30 days of unhealthy air quality in 2020. 

For California to meet this audacious goal, we need to build the proper infrastructure to support an increasing volume of electric vehicles. 

Passing the GoEv city measure will accelerate the readiness for the massive transition to all electric vehicles by streamlining the process in building an EV infrastructure. LA County is the champion we need to pave the way in making the country more conscious about the environment and illuminating the substantial benefits from transitioning to an environmentally friendly infrastructure

Daniel Mora, DTLA

 

Learning from Viennese housing policies 

Editor:

Currently, there is “...an estimated 553,742 people in the United States” suffering from homelessness on any given day (“National Alliance to End Homelessness,” 2017). 

Specifically, cities in California like Los Angeles and San Francisco face extremely high rates of homelessness. 

In Los Angeles, there are at least 63,706 homeless individuals on any given night (Ward, 2021). 

This is due to the fact that these areas possess certain policies and migration trends that exacerbate the issue of homelessness like zoning laws and gentrification. 

Overall, the U.S. as a whole and the political parties that make up the democratic system in the U.S. (Democrats and Republicans) do not possess enough urgency when observing the current homelessness crisis. 

Areas with high-density homeless populations like that of Los Angeles and San Francisco have expressed “deep frustration over widespread, visible homelessness… (urging) the government to act faster and focus on shelter for people living in the streets” as suggested by recent polls (Lauter, Oreskes, 2021). 

While recent LA efforts to limit housing scarcity have resulted in an increase in housing costs, worse traffic congestion, and higher levels of homelessness (Platkin, 2021). 

However, cities like Vienna, Austria, have adopted policies like that of the Threefold Subsidy Housing Policy, which consists of an active land policy that promotes the buying of historical land reserves to be sold and leased to nonprofit organizations at a low cost to build social housing units (Ball, 2021). 

Once these social housing units are built, tenants pay about “27% of their income on rent” (Forrest, 2019). Fiscally and in terms of rent, this is pretty manageable considering the poorest individuals in Los Angeles pay about 50% of their income on rent (Goulding, 2022). 

While other cities in the United States, like New York, have citizens spending about 58% of their average income on rent (Forrest, 2019). 

Additionally, subsidies are available to low-income and median-income tenants that want to live in Vienna’s social housing units but still cannot afford the rent entirely, as these units are open to any economic class (although there is an emphasis and set amount of spaces set apart for specifically low-income individuals) (Ball, 2021). 

Additionally, poor housing quality that is prevalent in the United States, in terms of social housing units could be resolved by Vienna’s urban renewal policy as well. Vienna’s urban renewal policy consists of the city’s requirements to constantly upgrade social housing units that are growing older in age and in areas that are experiencing gentrification. 

Building upgrades consist of adding more levels to increase the number of tenants that could live in a unit as well as upgrading the quality in terms of ventilation, comfort, eco-friendliness, etc. 

Additionally, all social housing units made after the 1990s experienced higher quality requirements as new developments were made in the structure of social housing architecture. 

New housing policies were introduced that required each person that wanted to complete a social housing project to submit their design to a developer competition. 

Designs were favored based on architectural quality, how much the building would cost to build and how eco-friendly it was. These competitions are still in place today and continue to ensure maximum quality, lower costs and result in high-density buildings with high-level public transport access and eco-friendly spaces. 

These social housing policies are possible to apply in countries like the United States — specifically in cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles — in a tangible and fiscal sense, however, politically, this issue continues to be neglected by federal and regional governments. 

Politically, in Vienna, all social housing is paid for by citizen taxes (Blumgart, 2020). This was made possible due to the power that Vienna had and continues to have over creating its own taxing policies and the consistent political success of the Social Democratic Workers Party that holds social housing at such a high priority (Blumgart, 2020). 

In reality, voters in areas like LA are playing their role and expressing their concern over the lack of affordable housing in their regions alongside the growing homeless population scarcity as 94% of LA voters hold homelessness as “one of the most serious problems facing Los Angeles County” (Lauter, Oreskes, 2021). 

They continue to express their “disappointment with the region’s leadership” as progress toward affordable housing continues to be “slow and expensive” while research continues to prove that providing permanent, secure housing alongside services to help address physical and psychological issues will lead to lower homeless rates (Lauter, Oreskes, 2021). 

The solution lies among our most powerful regional and federal government leaders that have the authority to push for certain policies, tax laws and decide which issues hold the highest priority. 

The fact of the matter is that housing is a human right and for as long as our leaders continue to see housing as a mere commodity, luxury good and asset, change will continue to stay stagnant. As responsible citizens, it is our duty to continue to push for policies that hold human rights to the highest regard. 

Guadalupe Zamora, UCLA