Why is there no affordable housing development in LA? Reddit weighs in

Los Angeles architect blamed local building code for crisis

Construction of the Metropolis at 889 Francisco Street (Credit: Hunter Kerhart via Skyrise Cities)
Construction of the Metropolis at 889 Francisco Street (Credit: Hunter Kerhart via Skyrise Cities)

A Los Angeles architect blamed local legislation for Los Angeles’ affordable housing crisis, kicking off a viral discussion on the social media website Reddit Saturday.

“Los Angeles, right now, is simply incapable of building affordable rental and condo towers,” Reddit user Clipstep wrote, though his true identity was not clear. “The only way to make a new high-rise building cost effective is to make luxury units, because what would be luxury amenities in New York or Chicago are required in Los Angeles by the building code, not optional.”

Clipstep cited parking codes requiring at least one parking spot per residential unit in L.A., saying its was the most expensive part of a new development, as well as requirements that each unit have a minimum of 100 square feet of open space. In addition, L.A.’s structures must be made earthquake proof and account for a heavier dead load because of parked cars, making construction much more expensive, he said.

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The Redditor put forth a simplified example: A modest, relatively affordable development might be $130 per sellable square foot to build and sold at $165 per square foot, he said.

“If we built our tower in New York code, our cost to build would be $15.6 million. The same tower in Los Angeles would be $24,86 million after the premium for shake-proofing and higher dead loading. Now we price both buildings at $165 per square foot, and sell all units. We get $19.8 million. That New York building makes us $4.2 million. The Los Angeles building? You LOSE over $5 million.”

The takeaway: “This is why you will never again see a new skyscraper in Los Angeles with condos selling for the lower middle class,” he said. “They literally can’t build a legal building to code and charge acceptably without destroying their own business.

In all, the post garnered  thousands of impressions and drew 788 comments from fellow Redditors. Read the full post here. [Reddit]Cathaleen Chen