COVID-19 & Societal Impacts

How Do Renters Cope with Unaffordability?

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The Los Angeles region faces a deep and worsening housing affordability crisis. A team of researchers from the USC Price Center for Social Innovation — led by Sean Angst, Soledad De Gregorio, Gary Painter and Jovanna Rosen — conducted an in-person, door-to-door survey of 800 Los Angeles renter households to better understand the impacts of the Los Angeles housing affordability crisis. The project aimed to understand how rental affordability operates, uncovering how it impacts residents in Los Angeles specifically and how its effects differ across populations. Surveys were conducted during 2019, in Spanish and English, across the Los Angeles Promise Zone (LAPZ), in Central Los Angeles, and the South Los Angeles Promise Zone (SLATE-Z).

This report presents the first set of findings from the survey, focused on understanding the coping strategies and adjustments that renters in Los Angeles make in response to high rents.

While the COVID-19 pandemic has introduced an additional economic shock with widespread and significant effects, survey findings show the deep, long-standing economic precarity that existed prior to the pandemic for Los Angeles renters. Current efforts to protect renters, across both Los Angeles and other urban regions across the nation, must therefore support policies that address the deep issues with the foundation of the rental market. Returning to a pre-pandemic state is not enough. Moderated by Aubrey L. Hicks.

Who Will Benefit

– Those hoping to learn how the housing affordability crisis impacts Los Angeles renter households
– Researchers looking to understand the connection between housing affordability and factors such as public health and opportunity access
– Those seeking solutions to protect Los Angeles and other U.S. urban region renters

About Our Featured Faculty

Gary Painter is a professor in the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy and Chair of the Department of Public Policy. He also serves as the director of the Sol Price Center for Social Innovation and the Homelessness Policy Research Institute. A leading figure in the field of social innovation, Painter works extensively with a variety of social innovation organizations and collective impact networks to address some of the grand challenges that society faces. Painter recently published a co-authored book titled, Payment by Results and Social Impact Bonds: Outcome-based Payment Systems in the UK and US. He earned his PhD in economics at University of California, Berkeley.

Aubrey L. Hicks is the executive director at the USC Price Bedrosian Center on Governance, where she oversees day-to-day operations and strategic planning for the Center. She was the managing editor of Journal of Public Policy. Prior to joining the Bedrosian Center, Hicks was the program coordinator at The POGIL Project, a national professional development organization for educators. She also served as an academic reference librarian and worked in marketing and administration at Elsevier Science and Cornell University Press. She holds a degree in English from Moravian College and an MS in Library and Information Science from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

Jovanna Rosen, PhD, is a visiting professor at the USC Price School of Public Policy and an assistant professor of public policy at Rutgers University-Camden. Her research focuses on community development, environmental justice, and social innovation. Rosen earned her PhD in Urban Planning and Development from USC Price. She also earned Bachelor of Arts and Master of City Planning degrees from the University of California, Berkeley. Her research has been published in the Annals of the American Association of Geographers, the Journal of the American Planning Association, the Journal of Planning Education and Research, Planning Theory and the Journal of Planning Literature. Her sole-authored book manuscript, Left at the Table: The Fight for Community Benefits is under contract with the University of Pennsylvania Press.