I was on my way to the market when something caught my eye at the corner of Ivar and De Longpre. Actually, it was two things. The first was a massive new apartment building on Cahuenga, with a huge banner that exclaimed “NOW LEASING”. The second was a homeless encampment on Ivar. Seeing the pricey new apartments and the row of makeshift shelters so close together struck me as a perfect image of what’s happening in Hollywood these days, and really what’s happening across so much of LA. The City keeps telling us that building expensive new housing will alleviate the housing crisis, but upscale units like these are completely out of reach for the people who need housing most.
Part of what makes the scene so perfect is the banner shouting “NOW LEASING”. I have no idea how many of the units have been rented, and maybe it’s almost full, but I doubt it. A June 2020 report to the LA City Council from the Housing + Community Investment Department offers data on vacancy rates in various LA neighborhoods. While it uses multiple sources to assess vacancies, the report’s authors state that data from the LA Department of Water & Power is probably the most reliable. Does it surprise you that according to LADWP the vacancy rate in Hollywood is 10.7 percent? That’s 1,372 empty apartments in the Hollywood area, and I bet most of them are in new buildings like the one you see in the picture. You know, the ones where the rent for a single starts around $2,000.
Now, the US Census says that the average household size in LA County is 2.8 people. So if we multiply 1,372 units by 2.8 we find that you could house about 3,841 people in the apartments that are sitting vacant in Hollywood right now. Interestingly, the 2020 Los Angeles Homeless Count found that Council District 13, which covers much of Hollywood, has a total of 3,907 people experiencing homelessness. (A 22% jump over 2019.) In other words, you could fit almost all of the homeless people in CD 13 into the units that are sitting empty in Hollywood.
Of course, none of those homeless folks could afford $2,000 for a single. Let alone $3,000 or $4,000 for a one-bedroom or two-bedroom unit. But the LA City Council keeps telling us that if we just keep building housing, any kind of housing, even housing that the average Angeleno couldn’t possibly afford, it will help alleviate the housing crisis.
So they keep on approving high-end apartment complexes. And the homeless population keeps on growing larger.