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Local leaders at the Hometown Tour: Los Angeles. Photo: Shane Karns for Axios

Last Thursday, Axios' Ina Fried hosted an Expert Voices Live discussion for the next stop on the Hometown Tour, digging into the state of affordable housing in Los Angeles.

Why it matters: 24 local leaders — organizers, officials, developers, and financiers — discussed how to house Angelenos and prepare residents for the future of living in the city.

1 Big Thing

Ina Fried kicked off the conversation by asking the participants what they hope most people could understand about the housing crisis in L.A.

Deputy Mayor Christina Miller shares her opinion. Photo: Shane Karns for Axios
  • Christina Miller, Deputy Mayor for City Homelessness Initiatives, hopes people understand that the homelessness crisis is a housing crisis. "There is still a pervasive mischaracterization that people that are experiencing homelessness are there by a choice or a moral failing...this misperception drives us to not tackle the issue in a smart way."
  • Jessica Lall, President and CEO at Central City Association, stressed the importance of empowering the YIMBY (yes in my backyard) advocates in neighborhoods, "We need to be more proactive about finding those people and giving them a voice in the process."
  • Melissa Chinchilla, Postdoctoral Fellow at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, noted that the issue is not fixed solely by getting people into housing, "People need a lot of support in getting integrated into the community afterwards."
Structural Barriers

Structural barriers, and the need for their elimination, was reiterated throughout the morning's conversation.

  • Rochelle Mills, President and CEO at Innovative Housing Opportunities, saw the largest barrier to be the years-long permit approvals process, mostly due to departmental silos. "If housing is truly a crisis, and we've got funding sources, we should be able to turn those projects into housing within 12-18 months."
Rochelle Mills, President and CEO at Innovative Housing Opportunities, talks about structural barriers to affordable housing. Photo: Shane Karns for Axios
  • Carmel Sella, Senior Vice President and Local Government Relations Manager at Wells Fargo, spoke about the financial barriers, "A project can have seven or eight financing sources...if everyone comes together and has a harmonized process it would very much speed things up."
  • Mark Vallianatos, Policy Director at Abundant Housing, highlighted the exclusionary zoning barrier, an effort that doesn't permit multi-family housing: "If we can fix exclusionary zoning, it could go a long way."
Conversation and Collaboration
Steve Glenn talks about the need for collaboration. Photo: Shane Karns for Axios

Ina asked the group if conversations like the breakfast roundtable — housing experts gathered in one room — happen often enough. Two participants gave examples of when collaboration lead to success.

  • Steve Glenn, Founder and CEO at Planet Prefab, described the integrated design process that is critical for prefab building, "Our projects are 6 to 9 months, and they can be lower cost...but there is tight integration between the design firm, factory, and others."
  • Rebecca Clark, President and CEO at LINC Housing, emphasized the need to start the conversation at the other end, "Start by saying 'this is how much we have to work with' and then reverse engineer the housing project with the architect."' This leads to lower-cost and efficient building.
Some Success

Lee Raagas, CEO at Skid Row Housing Trust, reminded the group of the success that is happening in Los Angeles:

There is an increased awareness and knowledge about what it takes holistically to do this — real estate development, empathetic property management, and full-spectrum services ... We are not just having discussions, people are looking at how to execute. We are moving the needle.

Thank you Wells Fargo for sponsoring this event.

Go deeper

Updated 7 hours ago - World

Mexican President López Obrador tests positive for coronavirus

Mexico's President Andrés Manuel López Obrador during a press conference at National Palace in Mexico City, Mexico, on Wednesday. Photo: Ismael Rosas/Eyepix Group/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador announced Sunday evening that he's tested positive for COVID-19.

Driving the news: López Obrador tweeted that he has mild symptoms and is receiving medical treatment. "As always, I am optimistic," he added. "We will all move forward."

7 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Sarah Huckabee Sanders to run for governor of Arkansas

Sarah Huckabee Sanders at FOX News' studios in New York City in 2019. Photo: Steven Ferdman/Getty Images

Former White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders will announce Monday that she's running for governor of Arkansas.

The big picture: Sanders was touted as a contender after it was announced she was leaving the Trump administration in June 2019. Then-President Trump tweeted he hoped she would run for governor, adding "she would be fantastic." Sanders is "seen as leader in the polls" in the Republican state, notes the Washington Post's Josh Dawsey, who first reported the news.

Coronavirus has inflamed global inequality

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

History will likely remember the pandemic as the "first time since records began that inequality rose in virtually every country on earth at the same time." That's the verdict from Oxfam's inequality report covering the year 2020 — a terrible year that hit the poorest, hardest across the planet.

Why it matters: The world's poorest were already in a race against time, facing down an existential risk in the form of global climate change. The coronavirus pandemic could set global poverty reduction back as much as a full decade, according to the World Bank.