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City Planner: There's 'no silver bullet' for solving LA's housing crisis

UCLA researchers say if we want cheaper housing, we’ll have to accept living a little closer to our neighbors.
UCLA researchers say if we want cheaper housing, we’ll have to accept living a little closer to our neighbors.
John Williams PHD/Flickr

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In the Fall of 2014, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced a proposal to increase the city's minimum wage to $13.25 by 2017.

It was a welcome announcement. But economists worry that a wage hike may not help Angelenos as much as the Mayor would like. Why not? In a word - housing.

Chris Thornberg is a principal at Beacon Economics and he told Take Two that a minimum wage increase will simply increase the demand for housing, which is scarce and expensive in LA.

"A lot of those wage increases are just going to end up bidding up the cost of rent for apartments. A lot of these workers are going to end up back right where they started in the first place, facing a more expensive housing market," said Thornberg.

"You know who should be most for the increase in minimum wage are landlords, because they're the ones who are going to gain," he added.

LA city planners have been grappling with a housing shortage for some time. That's driving up the cost of rent as well.

Ken Bernstein is a City Planner for the city of Los Angeles, and one of the project planners for the Cornfield Arroyo Seco Specific Plan, a plan to develop the areas around Los Angeles State Historic Park, northeast of downtown. CASSP, as it's known, has been hailed as an example of smart development in a city struggling with appeasing residents, environmentalists, preservationists, and developers with every proposed construction project. 

But CASSP covers only a relatively small area of the vast city. And officials and planners face numerous challenges across LA's various neighborhoods.

Bernstein joined Take Two to talk about some of those challenges and how city planners are working to meet them. Among the tasks at hand - they're rewriting outdated zoning codes across the city and offering new incentives for developers to build affordable units, like in the CASSP plan.

"There's no silver bullet," Bernstein said. But Los Angeles "needs to clear impediments to building [housing] to allow supply to catch up with demand," he said.

Reporter Sharon McNary visited the area affected by the Cornfield Arroyo Seco Specific Plan. To listen to her report, "Mega-project may skirt Chinatown 'smart' development rules," click here.