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'Time To Get Serious About Affordable Housing' — UCLA Kicks Off Affordable Housing Executive Program

As housing continues to be unattainable for many residents, a California university is doing its part to tackle the affordable housing crisis in the state.

The University of California Los Angeles is accepting applications for its Howard and Irene Levine Affordable Housing Development Program, a six-day executive-level program that trains students how to develop affordable housing projects.

UCLA's famed Royce Hall in Westwood

The 30-student program, which kicks off this year during two weekends in the summer (six full days), is being taught by commercial real estate executives, UCLA professors and community leaders and gives students the ins and outs of the ongoing issue.

“It’s time to get serious about the affordable housing crisis going on in the state,” UCLA’s Richard S. Ziman Center for Real Estate Director Stuart Gabriel said. “We have among the most serious affordability problems in the country. … What happens [when we don’t build affordable housing] is our metropolitan areas become less economically viable. We draw fewer jobs and more jobs leave and all the economic activity surrounding those jobs doesn’t appear. Without the opportunity to house workers, jobs will go elsewhere.”

Gabriel said the executive-level program for affordable housing is the first of its kind nationwide and could spur other universities to develop affordable housing programs. He credited multifamily finance leaders Howard and Irene Levine for providing the gift to start UCLA's affordable housing program.

Affordable housing challenges and development will be discussed at Bisnow’s Greater Los Angeles Multifamily event Feb. 19.

California metropolitan areas such as San Francisco and Los Angeles are seeing skyrocketing housing prices, leaving many workers to either commute long distances to get to work or leave the state. California has only produced about 80,000 new housing units in the past 10 years, according to a report by the California Department of Housing and Community Development in 2018.

Of California’s 6 million renters, more than half are considered rent-burdened, spending more than 30% of their income on housing. Nearly 30% — or 1.7 million households — are spending more than 50% of their income toward rent. Experts say as a general rule, people should not spend more than 30% of their monthly gross income on housing.

Because of the state's massive size, California has the most people — nearly 118,000 — experiencing homelessness, according to the state.

About 53,000 people are experiencing homelessness in Los Angeles. About 47% of Los Angeles residents are rent-burdened. That is the highest number in the nation, according to a UCLA study.

The current housing supply is not keeping up with demand. And people are either overpaying or over-commuting, the report states.

UCLA’s Richard S. Ziman Center for Real Estate Director Stuart Gabriel

With California expected to have 40 million residents in the next couple of years, newly elected Gov. Gavin Newsom said his goal is to build 3.5 million new housing units by 2025. 

Newsom has already proposed a $1.7B increase in funding for housing initiatives, according to the Sacramento Bee. Of that, $1.25B will be spent for building new housing that includes tax credits for low-income housing developers and a mixed-income loan program.

At a recent business conference, California State Treasurer Fiona Ma said she is doing everything in her power to support the governor’s housing initiatives and using the new federal opportunity zone program, which allows investors to invest in designated low-income areas in exchange for a hefty tax benefit, as a way to increase the state’s affordable housing stock.

As the current landscape continues to lack housing supply and construction costs rise, there is a great need for developing affordable housing, UCLA's Gabriel said.

UCLA's new affordable housing program has been years in the making but made its debut last fall. The university received more than 140 applicants for 24 spaces, Gabriel said.

This year, the university bumped the enrollment to 30 students and made it an annual program. The cost is $1,200 for executives in the private sector and $500 for professionals in the public sector and nonprofits. Reduced fee scholarships are available.

Gabriel said students will learn about developing affordable housing, including about different types of affordable housing, planning, zoning and entitlement, legal issues, the various financing mechanisms, tax credits, tax-exempt bonds and regulatory issues.

The program will be held over two weekends in June and July with a total of six full days of 10 hours of instruction each day. The program is hands-on and concludes with the students preparing an affordable housing case project. Students will receive a certificate of completion after the program.

“We believe one way we can contribute to this issue is by training those who seek to develop affordable housing in a very time-efficient manner to bring a large number of people up to speed in the technical dimensions of how to build out this asset class,” Gabriel said.

Gabriel said the goal is to not only train people into developing affordable housing but actually build it as soon as possible. They are looking for applicants who will use the tools and education taught to develop projects.  

The inaugural participants included professionals at LA’s Skid Row Housing Trust, Mercy Housing California, East LA Community Corp., Coachella Valley Housing Coalition and Self-Help Enterprises in Visalia.

Applications for the program will be issued at the end of February, and online applications will be accepted until March 29.

“There is an immediacy to this issue that is compelling, it’s important and it’s a void that we can step into," Gabriel said.

Learn more about the need for affordable housing and what developers are doing at Bisnow’s Greater Los Angeles Multifamily event Feb. 19 at the Marina del Rey Marriott in Marina del Rey.

CORRECTION, FEB. 12, 6:48 A.M. PT: A previous version of this story had incorrect information on when the program would start taking applications. The story has been updated.