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How does the housing market in LA compare with NYC?

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Birds fly across the sky at daybreak over the downtown Los Angeles skyline on December 14, 2011.
Birds fly across the sky at daybreak over the downtown Los Angeles skyline on December 14, 2011.

To get more affordable housing in L.A., Angelenos are going to have to get comfortable with building up. But that doesn't necessarily mean more NYC-like skyscrapers.

In his State of the City address yesterday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio honed in on the issue of affordable housing.

"If we do not act and act boldly," de Blasio said, "New York risks taking on the qualities of a gated community. A place defined by exclusivity rather than by opportunity and we can not let that happen."

It's a sentiment that residents of Los Angeles are familiar with. L.A. is one of the least affordable places to live in the country, maybe even less affordable than New York City. 

A recent study from UCLA named L.A. the worst rental market, based on the fact that the average resident spends almost half their income on housing costs. That's a greater proportion than in other high-priced places like New York or San Francisco.

Richard Green, Director of the USC Lusk Center for Real Estate, explains that while New York's housing is a little more expensive than it is in Los Angeles, "Los Angeles' incomes are a little lower than they are in New York. So if you look at how well people can afford housing, Los Angeles actually turns out to be a little worse than New York City."

Add to that the fact that there are more people who want to live in L.A. than there are houses available, Green says, and "we get things like more doubling up in Los Angeles than any other city in the country."

Like Mayor de Blasio, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has also made affordable housing a priority, pledging to build 100,000 new housing units by 2021. But Green says that right now Los Angeles is not on pace to meet that goal.

"We're not even building 25,000 [units] a year. The demand for housing grows by probably about 30,000 units a year, so we have to build more stuff."

In order for Los Angeles to get back to a normal housing stock relative to its population, Green says, Angelenos will have to let go of the idea of L.A. as a city of single-family homes and get more comfortable with "building up." 

That doesn't necessarily mean that L.A. would be packed with skyscrapers like New York City, but it could mean that L.A. would look a little more like Paris.

"Paris is a very dense city, it's almost as dense as Manhattan," Green says. "Paris doesn't have skyscrapers, but it has a bunch of six story buildings."

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