Opinion: WeHo’s Pricey Housing Will Push Gay People Out

West Hollywood is one of the best-known small cities in America. It’s known for a diverse array of reasons — its rock n’ roll history on the Sunset Strip, its Russian population and, of course, as a gay mecca. Since the city’s incorporation in 1984, West Hollywood (or “WeHo” as it is affectionately called) has led the way when it comes to a safe haven for LGBT people.

James "Duke" Mason
James Duke Mason

Slowly but surely, however, that has started to change. And it has changed for the same reasons that things have changed in other cities, such as San Francisco and New York. There has been a slow increase in the cost of living and the cost of housing, and that has caused the gay community in some of our major cities to dwindle, to essentially disappear — gay people simply can’t afford to live or move here anymore.

West Hollywood is at the beginning of that process. Many point out that the city’s percentage of gay men (43 percent) is around the same as it was 30 years ago, which is true. But as a member of the city’s Lesbian and Gay Advisory Board, as well as a member of the West Hollywood Community Housing Corporation board, I have a unique insight into these issues.

Yes, the percentage hasn’t changed, but that’s primarily because because most of those gay men are the same ones who have lived here since 1984 — in their rent-controlled apartments or homes they bought many years ago. There is a large segment of affluent gays who don’t have to worry about the cost of living in West Hollywood these days — but what are things like for those who do?

The housing crisis in West Hollywood is a microcosm of what is happening across this country, and not just in the gay community. Our nation’s secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Julian Castro, said recently that there are millions of Americans who spend more than half of their income on their rent every month. That is a disgrace, and something we must work to change.

Many of those Americans struggling with housing costs are seniors, the disabled, or people who are low-income. It is essential that we expand the opportunities and alternatives for these people as much as possible. And that’s why I’m grateful for organizations like the West Hollywood Community Housing Corporation, of which I am proud to be a part, that are building more affordable housing across our city as well as across the region, so that more people have a chance to succeed and thrive without the fear of being evicted or losing their home.

I believe that a mix of more affordable housing, plus building a more diversified housing stock that people of all kinds can actually afford (micro units, for instance, that are primarily geared toward young people), are the solution to this problem. We as a society have got to start thinking differently, to start thinking about things bigger than ourselves. As the saying goes: “Each day you’re living not just your own life, but the life of your times.” These are the times in which we live, this is the civil rights issue of our time, and we must address it.

This article was originally published in the Advocate magazine.


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bvinla
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bvinla

The problem is not one of WEHO but one of the entire region. Not enough homes have been built in the past two decades to accommodate the natural growth of the native population, let alone the masses from other states and countries who want to immigrate here. Rent Control, nor micro units are a solution. They only push the prices of everything else higher while lowering the quality of life. These solutions squeeze out the middle class, leaving a SF like city of filthy rich and a few poor living in places as small as a jail cell. Short of… Read more »

JOE l
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JOE l

Steve Martin: “if we want to preserve the character of our community we need to keep OUR rent controlled buildings intact.” Last I checked these rent controlled buildings are private property. They arent OURS, they don’t belong to you or the City. Our Constitution guarantees right of ownership of private property. If the City wants them it should build them or buy them for fair market value. . The City should put a price cap on City employee salaries and use the cost savings to build housing for all of us. Then we can all call it OURS.

JOE l
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JOE l

W. Hollywood has one of the most radical rent control laws in the country. Radical rent control has done nothing in 35 years in Weho but encourage tenants to hoard units and discourage developers from building new housing stock. When a government expropriates private property and socializes private enterprise, be it in Cuba, Venezuela, or the People’s Republic of Weho, you scare the bejesus out of anyone wanting to go into the apartment rental business. The W. Hollywood rent control zealots simply made it so onerous to be in the apartment rental business that when the scarce supply of land… Read more »

Josh Kurpies
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Josh Kurpies

There are only 15 cities in the state of California that have some form of rent control, if rent control were the problem, why are nearly all areas of California unaffordable?

I would argue the problem lies more with housing supply than it does with rent control.

Do Not Reply
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Do Not Reply

30 years from now when rent control is completely phased out, we’ll see a more competitive and even rental market.

But until then, there’s no stopping landlords from selling those unprofitable rental properties to developers for land value.

It’s not that complicated.

SaveWeho
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SaveWeho

I agree with @alison. I think small spaces isn’t necessarily healthy. It might be ok for younger people temporarily..but I dont believe they are healthy long term solutions. And having them built might present new issues. With no mass transit nearby…parking will forever be an issue. They will probably have a huge turnover rate, poor quality and construction, and basically turn into something like a dorm atmosphere.

This is an interesting article:

http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2013/12/the-health-risks-of-small-apartments/282150/

Josh Kurpies
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Josh Kurpies

While I agee with some of the comments that the piece lacks specific solutions, I salute James Duke Mason for writing the piece and WeHoVille.com for reprinting as it has begun one of the most constructive dialogues I have seen occur here on WeHoVille.com comment section. Ignoring the few here that simply point fingers of blame (as if this problem is something isolated to West Hollywood), I am encouraged by the comments from people who seem to have a sincere desire to find solutions to this extremely complicated issue that at times, you have to step back and ask yourself,… Read more »

Joe
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Joe

My finance and I are thinking of moving to Vegas or Portland. For 300k you can buy a 5 bedroom house vs 400sq foot studio condo.. Prices are ridiculous I make upward of 90k a year but owning your own business California kills me..

Randy
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Randy

I don’t think there is any escaping the free market. This is turning into a city for affluent people (gay and straight), which will, in turn, change the demographics to be older (because older people tend to make more money). It remains to be seen what will happen to gay culture here, as a result, knowing that young people will need to live elsewhere, and visit. Perhaps all of Los Angeles will just become more integrated (case in point: 3 gay bars opening downtown in the last 6 months). I would love for West Hollywood to maintain the “gay” part… Read more »

Steve Martin
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Steve Martin

The City puts a lot of emphasis on creating “affordable” housing while ignoring the obvious need to protect the existing stock of rent controlled housing. Rather than trying to keep existing buildings on the market, the City provides incentives to demolish. We need to create dis-incentives toward demolition to put the brakes on the steady loss of rent controlled units. Everyone, gay and non-gay, needs housing they can afford; if we want to preserve the character of our community we need to keep our rent controlled buildings intact. So far City Hall seems determined to destroy the character of West… Read more »

alison
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alison

I’m against micro-units as a solution for low income or affordable housing. The thought of putting seniors or disabled people into those tiny units makes my blood boil. It’s like caging us. Micro units are fine for younger people who WANT them. Now, this is just my opinion, and some seniors might like the small spaces of them, but not me. I would go stir-crazy.

Larry Block
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Larry Block

@Jake did you read the title of the article?