Opinion: Smaller Units Mean More Housing That Is Less Expensive

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.


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Taunee English
Guest

YES! Totally Agree! We have the first time in history, we have more renters than homeowners in Los Angeles. What happen to the American Dream of Home Ownership?

I agree with Anthony. “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.

Let dream again!

#AmericanDream #ChampionsofHomeOwnership
#AffordableHousing

Sandra Miller
Guest
Sandra Miller

Great Article Anthony, thank you for your insightful thoughts.

Britta
Guest
Britta

Great article! We really need more housing and this makes a lot of sense.

Tyalor Walston
Guest

What a great article! The affordability crisis effects us all and it’s an issue a lot of people don’t understand or know how to help. Thank you for sharing!

James Francis
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James Francis

The better question why are not the developers volunteering to build when it is required to provide affordable units but prefer not to build any but make an in lieu fee payment and leave that responsibility to the next developer and contractors to build. I appreciate you admitting need for housing, but most people cannot afford West Hollywood even by your suggestions! The problem is that the real estate industry and developers havethe expectation that home buyers already have money and expect that they make more than the realtors themselves. Financing and affordability are not on the minds of developers… Read more »

Tom Swanson
Guest

We desperately need more affordable housing. You make very valid and smart points to help with this problem. Hopefully, West Hollywood will get on board. Well done, Anthony. Thank you.

Joshua88
Guest
Joshua88

What are the stats on car ownership? A declaration of “fewer people“ is not evidence that the laws on parking require change.

I agree with the premise, but I am unsure of whether I agree with you on size.