In the midst of what some housing analysts and economists consider to be a weakening housing market, Los Angeles and Ventura counties continue to face a serious housing shortage, according to a joint study by the Greater Los Angeles/Ventura County Chapter of the Building Industry Association (BIA/ GLAV) and the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation.

Since 1990, housing production has consistently failed to keep up with demand, creating a shortfall of nearly 300,000 homes for Los Angeles and Ventura counties combined, researchers said.

This shortfall continues in spite of an ever-increasing population — more than six million additional residents are projected in Southern California between 2000 and 2020.

In Los Angeles County, 59 percent of residents have an unmet demand, according to the study.

In Ventura County, that translates into 17 percent of residents having an unmet demand for housing now or in the future.

The study, called “Meeting the Housing Challenge in L.A. and Ventura,” looks at the nature of the region’s growing population, housing issues related to those population issues and how infrastructure is affected.

“There is a serious misconception about supply versus demand in today’s housing market,” said Holly Schroeder, chief executive officer of the building association chapter. “For more than a decade, we have consistently neglected to build enough homes and provide the infrastructure needed to accommodate the people who live and work in this region.

“As our population grows, that housing shortfall will have far-reaching and devastating effects on this region if we don’t make a positive commitment to change.”

The study shows that, in recent years, the largest contributing factor to the population is that there are more births than deaths, not immigration.

As this “natural” population increase continues, children will continue to add to the housing demand over the coming years and/or increase the size of existing households.

“The resulting housing situation takes away the hope of future homeownership from its own residents,” Schroeder said.

The growing population has already had measurable impacts, researchers say.

Regional transportation structures have been strained beyond intended capacity. Schools are overcrowded. Air pollution has worsened. Housing prices have pushed homeownership out of reach for many families.

The pool of potential homebuyers is shrinking at all price levels, researchers say, and much of this is due to the fact that the number of people who can buy a home is shrinking.

“If we remain on this pace, the mismatch will worsen,” said Economic Development Corporation chief economist Jack Kyser.

“This does not bode well for long-term housing affordability. The growing divergence between housing supply and demand in our region has very negative implications for our future economic viability.”

The number of new residents in Los Angeles County grew by 1,382,520 between 1990 and 2006, the study says.

During the same period, only 201,440 new housing units were produced. No data is available on demolitions.

This means that only one housing unit was constructed for every 6.86 new people who needed housing, researchers say, and numbers throughout the rest of the region indicate the same thing — demand continues to rise and the number of people per household has increased as the result of inadequate housing stock.

The study calls for a boost in supply and an increase in the number of housing units produced each year.

Cities in Los Angeles and Ventura counties need to begin treating the housing problem with the urgency it deserves, researchers say, and a mix of new suburban homes and higher density infill developments are needed to ensure an adequate supply of a variety of housing types.

Researchers say this can be accomplished only by streamlining the planning and permitting process, addressing related infrastructure needs and supporting leaders who are committed to solving the housing crisis.

The current “not in my backyard” approach to decision-making has allowed the search for nonexistent “perfect” solutions to distract from the implementation of “merely” good solutions, the study states.

Unless something changes, researchers predict the region could face an economic and quality of life meltdown over the next 20 years as businesses flee to neighboring states in search of better home prices and cost-of-living for their employees.

In addition, researchers say the trend suggests that families will continue to move to outlying areas in order to find more affordable homes — increasing the number of commuters on already-strained highways and streets.

Families may also improvise and create their own solutions by doubling or tripling up in single-family homes, as affordable homes become nonexistent.

“We need leaders to step up to the plate and address the needs of the region,” Schroeder said. “Continuing our current path of doing essentially nothing only further jeopardizes our economic future and the quality of life for current and future residents alike.”

Information, www.biaglav.org

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