Los Angeles is grappling with one of the nation’s most severe housing shortages, especially at the lower end of the market. Among all US metropolitan areas, Los Angeles had the greatest price appreciation gap between the least expensive 20 percent of homes and the most expensive 20 percent of homes, a gap that widened 133 percent from 2000 to 2019. The situation has only worsened during the pandemic, as the city’s inventory of available housing dipped to a record low in December 2020, increasing only slightly since.

The lack of housing supply in Los Angeles helps explain why the city has lower homeownership rates, more overcrowding, and a higher housing cost burden than other cities. Only 37 percent of households in Los Angeles are homeowners, compared with 54 percent in California and 64 percent nationally, according to our analysis of 2015–19 American Community Survey data. Fifty-six percent of renters in the city are cost burdened (paying more than 30 percent of their income on rent), compared with 45 percent of US renters. And 14 percent of households are overcrowded (having more than one person per room), compared with 3 percent of US households.

One solution to the lack of affordable housing is to build more low-density infill housing, specifically accessory dwelling units (ADUs) and two-to-four unit buildings, which could increase housing supply while preserving unique neighborhood characteristics. Adding these types of units comes with potential challenges, some of which stem from misconceptions about the implications of low-density infill housing and others grounded in substantive barriers to creating more of this kind of housing.

We have been studying whether Los Angeles can benefit from policies that would make it easier to add low-density infill development in existing single-family zones. From that research—including a literature review, data analysis, and interviews with 25 local stakeholders—we debunk three common myths about low-density infill housing.

  • Myth #1: Building more infill housing leads to overcrowding
  • Myth #2: Low-density infill housing leads to higher rents and gentrification
  • Myth #3: Low-density infill housing can’t be well designed

Read the full article about debunking myths about housing shortages by Jung Hyun Choi, Sarah Gerecke, Gideon Berger at Urban Institute.