To fix housing crisis, loosen regulations

Students from around the world come to USC for a variety of reasons. One of the school’s most alluring draws, perhaps, is the unparalleled strength of the University’s alumni network. On admissions tours, brochures and just about everything in between, USC boasts the depth and passion of the connections shared by its former students.

Despite the University’s stellar networking opportunities, the housing crisis currently plaguing Los Angeles is preventing many local graduates, including Trojans, from remaining in the city to live and work. It is a shame to imagine recent graduates forced out of the home of their alma mater. The crisis becomes even more disheartening when considering that the Trojans of decades past are nestled all around the city in top institutions and organizations.

It is estimated that every year, Los Angeles is more than 100,000 homes behind the needed pace of development. To put that in perspective, 100,000 homes is almost double the number of occupied dwellings in Pasadena. The problem continues to escalate year after year, and action must be taken immediately if Los Angeles wishes to remain one of the world’s most successful and popular cities.

In order to combat such an unfortunate phenomenon, both city and state governments should focus on the creation and passage of legislation designed to reduce the state’s strict housing and construction regulations. These codes include a number of strict stipulations, but the most effective solution is undoubtedly to address those dictating environmental regulation and construction on existing property.

The past decade has been dotted with both local and statewide legislation attempting to address Los Angeles’ lack of housing by tackling environmental regulation, even before the crisis reached record heights this summer. Back in 2013, legislation was introduced that tried to loosen building requirements by reforming CEQA, the California Environmental Quality Act. Under the existing CEQA codes, houses built in California had to adhere to a strict series of “environmentally friendly” directives. By softening the existing building codes, the bill attempted to allow housing to be constructed without the same degree of environmental consideration. However, the bill was quickly shot down due to projected environmental and economic concerns. Though all harmful effects were hypothetical, the potential environmental effects and their impact on the larger Los Angeles community proved detrimental to the bill’s progression.

In addition to the option of amending environmental regulation, there are also a number of bills in circulation that would allow for the construction of smaller units on properties with existing houses (think of a glorified, stand-alone pool house). While non-conventional, these smaller homes would allow for housing without the need to find and purchase lots. In a city that is growing increasingly urban, the ability to build without having to obtain additional land is a prevalent need, and, to many, where the solution lies.

While all viable options suggest some degree of risk, the aforementioned strategies both approach the housing crisis in a logical and reasonable manner. This same method of thought must be used in finding a solution going forward. What will it take for USC students to be able to remain in the city after graduation? The answer lies in a course of action from state and city officials.

California Gov. Jerry Brown and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti have joined the fight against the housing crisis by publicly endorsing relaxed building regulations. Garcetti recently wrote in a letter that “these bills [on reducing regulation] enhance homeowners’ ability to provide needed housing.”

Needless to say, the city’s ballooning housing crisis is an issue that affects both USC students and the population at large. Beyond the fact that graduates can network best in their alma mater’s native city, former Trojans typically have a love and appreciation for the Los Angeles they’ve come to call home. For many students, Los Angeles represents the first time they have lived and worked away from home, and will therefore always have a special place in Trojans’ hearts. It would be a shame to see graduates forced out of the city due to a crisis with many awaiting solutions.

Burdensome environmental protection regulations and land codes have created a quagmire more dangerous than that which they seek to prevent. If Los Angeles is to protect its university graduates, these regulations demand reconsideration. City and state officials must work together to create a plan that allows for the city’s young people to live and work in the city in which they pursued their higher education. The students of Los Angeles’ top universities have much to bring to the table, and they deserve to showcase their abilities in the various firms and institutions of our world-class city.