Specialized Housing: Mitigating the Southern California Housing Shortage

05/11/2018 12:28 PM | Cinnamon Thompson (Administrator)

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development esti­mated that over half a million people living in LA are in danger of falling into homelessness.

On May 8, 2018, city officials and developers, among others, met at City Club LA to discuss how to cultivate developments that mitigate the housing drought across multiple demographics.

The panel, moderated by Otis Odell, AIA, LEED AP, Associate Principal at HED, spoke about a variety of housing types, including: homeless, seniors, veterans, special needs, mixed-income, mixed-use, cohousing and more.

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Homeless Housing

Panelists discussed Measure HHH, which recently passed with more than a 76 percent vote. The measure authorized $1.2 billion in bond funds, allocated to homeless housing in LA. Sean Spear, Assistant General Manager for the City of Los Angeles, discussed how wonderful it is that the initiative is underway and discussed how it is aiding to solving the homeless crisis in LA.

“The first thing I should say about HHH is: thank you voters,” said Spear. “Because HHH is a bond, we can access those funds immediately. We’re already looking at providing 2,700 units by the end of the year at about $220,000 per unit. At this rate, the funding will be used within about five years.”

Veterans Housing

Dora Gallo, CEO of A Community of Friends, addressed the current lack of veteran (VA) only housing.

When asked what some of the unique design elements are for VA housing, Gallo mentioned that “the main things veterans desire in their housing spaces are open, social spaces such as clubhouses, as well as gyms.”

She spoke about the passing of California Proposition 41, Veterans Housing and Homeless Prevention Bond, a few years ago and how helpful it has been. The measure authorized the state to provide local governments, nonprofit organizations and private developers with financial assistance, such as low-interest loans, so they can construct, renovate and attain affordable multifamily housing for low-income veterans and their families.

Gallo discussed what the qualifications are for getting accepted to low-income VA housing.

Gallo also expressed how excited she is about November, 2018’s Legislative Housing Package, which places a $4 billion general obligation bond on the ballot. If approved, it will allocate $1.5 billion to low-income multifamily housing and $1 billion to veteran’s housing assistance.

Senior Housing/Assisted Living

Craig T. Fukushima, Partner at The Fox Group, LLC, spoke about how the senior housing market has faced many challenges recently and addressed the significant lack of affordable senior housing facilities, with emphasis on the LA region.

Fukushima explained that “the strategy for delivering effective assisted living, which must be driven by the needs in the market.” He raised spoke about how to program assisted living in addition to the cost of assisted living units, which The Fox Group, LLC’s typically sees as $170-210 per square foot.


Tony Salazar, President of McCormack Baron Salazar, Inc., says “we’ve got too many people and too many cars in LA, so we either have to increase the density around transit stops or build outside of LA.”

Salazar believes there is no clear, separate concentration of income. When it comes to financing developments, there are varied levels. While the government contributes 100 percent to homeless housing, the other housing classes have very in-depth and diverse financing processes.  

Salazar also explained the variation in inclusionary requirements for each city and state. “Each city has different initiatives, so we have to adjust our developments accordingly,” said Salazar. “Affordable housing is done through the private sector. Each state has the right to layer different requirements for the development. And when it comes to developing in San Francisco, you must have fortitude.”

Gallo emphasized the importance for architects to understand the wide-range of requirements and regulations for each city they plan to develop in and the entire panel and room agreed how vital this is.


The panel also commented on cohousing spaces, which are communities of private homes, clustered around a shared space. The attached or single-family homes have standard amenities, including private kitchens as well as shared spaces, which typically include a common house that may include a large kitchen and dining area, laundry room and recreational spaces. The panel and the audience expressed how exciting this newer market is and the great potential it has, however, they also discussed the challenges of finding the right model for this type of housing, especially in the LA region.

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