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HUD estimates half a million low-income LA renters at risk of losing homes

Los Angeles landlords say requiring 'bootleg apartments' to be affordable is a disincentive for landlords to come out of the shadows.
David Liu via Flickr
Failing to receive government housing assistance, more than half a million low-income Los Angeles renters are living in severely substandard housing or putting more than half their paycheck toward the rent, according to a new report.

Roughly 567,000 people living in Los Angeles are poor renters who can't access the government assistance they qualify for and are in danger of falling into homelessness, according to a new report from the U.S. Department Housing and Urban Development. 

The report said these renters have "worst case needs" — they make so little money they could get public housing or rental assistance but there’s not enough government help to go around.

Southern California's housing affordability crisis is far-reaching, but low-income renters may be among the hardest hit. And those living in Los Angeles are not alone. In the Riverside metropolitan area, poor renters with no government assistance number about 123,000.

"This population could be at risk of losing their housing altogether, further exacerbating the issue of homelessness," said HUD spokesman Ed Cabrera. 

The renters resort to living in cheap, substandard apartments or places that can eat up more than half their income, which is about $45,000 for a family of four in Los Angeles County.

Larry Gross, who advocates for tenant rights with the Coalition for Economic Survival, said overcrowded units are a common outcome for the poor.

"People are having to double up and triple up to ensure they have a roof over their head," Gross said.

HUD said nationwide the number of worst-case renters peaked in 2011 at 8.5 million during the housing crisis, but after a few years of decline, the numbers climbed again to 8.3 million in 2013. 

Gross said government housing assistance eludes some because they don't know it's out there. But the bigger problem is the help that does exists is limited. 

For example, in Los Angeles, more than 600,000 people are expected to apply for housing vouchers when the city starts taking applications later this year. Officials say only 20,000 may receive vouchers.