Hotels and offices could provide LA County with 72,000 new homes, study finds – Daily News

Los Angeles County could add 72,000 to 113,000 units to its housing supply by converting underutilized hotels, offices and other commercial buildings into apartments, according to a new study.

This would represent 9% to 14% of the county’s state-mandated housing target by the end of 2029.

But such “adaptive reuse” would work best for hotel conversions, and most of those new units would have to be studio apartments to make financial sense, according to research by RAND Corp. published on Wednesday, April 6.

In total, the county has about 2,300 underutilized hotels, office buildings and shopping centers available for such conversions, according to the study.

“Repurposing commercial buildings to help address the housing shortage in Los Angeles County is a compelling idea, but the economics and logistics of such projects are complex,” said RAND economist Jason Ward. , lead author of the study, in a statement. “Significant incentives for the conversion of these properties…may be needed to realize the full potential of adaptive reuse.”

State and local governments have looked at hotel and office conversions in recent years as a way to address California’s housing shortage.

During the pandemic, California launched Project Homekey and its predecessor, Project Roomkey, to get homeless people off the streets. In early 2021, two LA County supervisors called for a study to develop a list of potential home conversion sites.

Read more: Expansion of the Roomkey project to house homeless Angelenos is ‘unfeasible’, Los Angeles County officials say

And the City of Los Angeles took action as early as 1999, passing an ordinance to streamline the redevelopment of dozens of vacant downtown buildings, according to the report. As a result, approximately 12,000 of the city center‘s 37,000 new homes were created through building conversions.

“Housing production in (downtown) Los Angeles has been one of the few success stories in Los Angeles’ quest to increase the housing stock over the past three decades,” the research organization said. nonprofit based in Santa Monica.

Home conversions can also reduce greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming and reduce development costs by reducing labor and materials used in home development. A state housing program is forcing LA to increase housing construction to an average of 57,000 units per year this decade from an average of 8,800 over the past decade.

So that begs the question, why not do so much more?

The answer, according to the study, is that it is “a complex problem”.

The practicality of using office or retail properties depends on region-specific real estate prices and whether the homes produced are bachelor apartments or one- or two-bedroom units. Studios – smaller one-bedroom, one-bathroom apartments – are more cost-effective than larger apartments.

Other factors affecting feasibility include building size, type of construction, floor layout and condition.

Hotels are more profitable than offices for home conversions, according to the study – again, primarily for studios.

Yet office buildings outnumber hotels in the most desirable areas. But conversion can be cheaper than new construction.

And there are social benefits that make conversions worthwhile, according to the study. “Non-fiscal factors” include access to jobs and public transit, increasing housing affordability, and reducing housing segregation.

The study urged local governments to provide grants to encourage such redevelopment. And they need to pass new laws to increase incentives by increasing allowable density, adopting alternative building codes and streamlining the building permit approval process, the study found.

“Policymakers and other stakeholders involved in the housing policy debate have become increasingly interested in a more holistic view of the criteria that should guide such policy,” the study says. “Residential (conversions) can still play a significant role in meeting the significant need for new affordable housing in the region. »

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