We are in the midst of an affordable housing crisis where The Crown on Kings Road in West Hollywood is asking over $2,500 for a 400-square-foot studio apartment and most people can’t afford it.
It’s not ok for a city to have an entry-level rental that so many people just can’t afford. Something has to change.
So how do we provide more affordable housing? (And I’m not talking about the 20% of “affordable housing units” that developers have to set aside for low-income people in a building with 10 or more units.) The best way to increase housing that is more “affordable” for all is to simply build as many small units as possible — units on the free market that are not priced so high.
The maximum average unit size currently in the City of West Hollywood (1,500- or 1,200-square-feet, depending on the zone) is too big. The smaller a unit is, the less expensive it will be to build and less expensive to put on the market to rent or sell.
I believe the average square footage for units being built in a new designated “dense growth area” should be 600-square-feet. There should be a bonus for developers who build studios that are 400-square-feet or less. It’s possible for these units to sell for under $400,000, making a mortgage payment with a 3.5% down payment less than people are paying now for rent.
This would help build our own citizens’ wealth over that of our developers. When you own your own condo, rents don’t ever go up. Even rent-controlled apartments have rents that increase yearly. Building small condos would create stability and wealth for our community.
Our city has very few small units, and almost none are currently being built. I have asked developers: “Why?” Smaller units sell for more price per square foot than larger units do, so you would think a developer would build more small units. We are seeing more studios being built in Los Angeles now, but not West Hollywood. Why?
There are two reasons why:
1) Current WeHo parking requirements make it expensive to develop small units. West Hollywood requires one parking space for each studio unit. The City of Los Angeles only requires a developer to add .5 parking spaces for each studio built. This is one reason why we are now seeing more small units being built in L.A.
2) The current zoning in West Hollywood makes it difficult. For example, an R3 Lot in West Hollywood will allow one unit per 1,210 square feet, but Los Angeles allows for one unit per 800 square feet, plus a bonus of 50 to 60% in certain areas. With the West Hollywood bonus rule, a 6,050-square-foot lot would allow for five units, while in Los Angeles it would allow for 12 to 13 units. This density in Los Angeles allows for the needed smaller units to be built and makes sense for a developer.
As fewer people are owning cars, it’s time for West Hollywood to decide what is more important: To build housing that is more affordable or to build parking. And we must stop planning in our city like we are Fresno.