Survey shows impact of costly L.A. housing on employer-employee relationship

580 200 Nadine Ono

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The high cost of housing is adding to Los Angeles employers' challenge of retaining employees. That’s according to the new report and survey, “The Affordable Housing Crisis in Los Angeles: An Employer Perspective,” issued recently by the Los Angeles Business Council Institute (LABC).

USC Professor Dr. Raphael Bostic and a team of USC researchers surveyed 14 major public and private sector Los Angeles employers that represent more than 200,000 employees. Survey questions included their views on how the cost of living affected their ability to attract and retain workers, how employees are handling the high costs and what they are doing to lessen the pressure of living in a high cost region.

The survey findings include the following:

  • Employers universally recognized the cost of living is high, but this was a problem only in attracting workers from outside the region, who may not be accustomed to local housing prices.
  • Employers are most concerned about acquiring “high performers” (mid to senior level jobs) and must offer relocation assistance to “sweeten the deal.”
  • The high cost of housing has led large percentages of employees to endure long commutes.
  • Supporting the production of workforce housing has proven to be an effective strategy, though few employers will be able to pursue this strategy.

“The affordability challenge has two components to it,” said Dr. Bostic, who serves as the Judith and John Bedrosian Chair on Governance and the Public Enterprise in the USC Price School of Public Policy, in an earlier interview with CA Fwd. “It has rent, and in most parts of the state it’s been going up considerably. And it has income, and if incomes aren’t growing or incomes are low, there are going to be burdens.”

The survey results showed that nearly three-quarters of the responding employers acknowledged that the high cost of living is a challenge in retaining employees. And nearly two-thirds indicated that the high housing costs is taken into consideration when setting salaries. But often the salaries are not high enough to live near the workplace, which places additional burdens on the employees.

“If you don’t have enough income, you may have to live in housing that is so far away from jobs that they effectively becoming inaccessible,” added Bostic. “So there’s a basic challenge that we have that’s the location of housing that’s affordable versus the location of jobs and if that’s too far out of balance in terms of distance, then that becomes a challenge.”

The report offered the following recommendations:

  • Vigorously examine the ability to take the Los Angeles Unified School District’s approach of producing workforce housing to a larger scale.
  • Identify and promote density-related solutions to the affordability challenge.
  • Identify strategies to increase the intensity of land use and, by extension, the density of housing, and then run pilots to assess their viability.
  • Actively engage with the planning process to make sure that development around transit includes housing at all price points.
  • Scrutinize what transportation projects to support, to ensure they are efficiently linking where people live with where they work, which is a recommendation included in the California Summit’s 2017 Roadmap to Shared Prosperity Action Plan.
  • Engage companies of various sizes to determine whether there are employers in the region that are struggling more acutely due to the region’s high costs of living and housing.

This report is a follow-up to the “Los Angeles Employer Assisted Housing Handbook,” a report issued by LABC in 2009 and proposed strategies employers can use to ease the housing crunch.


Nadine Ono

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