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 Member Update
WE NEED AFFORDABLE
HOUSING PROTECTION
AND PRODUCTION
By Ali Sahabi
How much worse would a major earthquake make California’s already serious housing crisis? It could destroy much of the existing affordable housing in Los Angeles County -- older apartment buildings, many of which are at risk of severe damage in a major earthquake.
In 2016, voters in the City of Los Angeles overwhelmingly approved Measure HHH, the “Homelessness Reduction and Prevention, Housing and Facilities Bond” authorizing up to $1.2 billion in bonds to help develop up to 10,000 affordable housing units for people without a roof over their head. Achieving this dream has been elusive. Since then, homelessness in the region has risen dramatically. The latest count showed 66,436 people in the Los Angeles County experiencing homelessness in 2020. That is a 12.7% increase from 2019. Officials say new people are becoming homeless faster than they can be housed.
A Los Angeles Times editorial recently lamented the failure to get new units developed and the high
cost of building them. Clearly, we need to look at protecting the affordable housing we already have as well as producing new housing. When it comes to earthquakes, older structures make up most of the city’s dangerous apartment buildings. These structures, because of their age, are more affordable to rent. But many structures built in the mid-1970s or earlier – such as soft-story apartments built over open parking areas – can have structural deficiencies that put tenants at risk in a major earthquake.
That puts lower-income residents at a greater risk of injury in a quake – and increases the risk of these vulnerable populations being displaced by a disaster. We at Optimum Seismic have proposed using Measure HHH funds to improve these older apartment buildings with earthquake retrofits so they remain standing after The Big One strikes. It is a great idea. Allocating some of these funds for protecting vulnerable, older apartment units will preserve this important housing resource and make our community more resilient.
Earthquake Evacuees. Arizona in 2018 conducted a full-scale earthquake drill planning for the scenario
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